The Owners of the Map: motorcycle taxi drivers, mobility, and politics in Bangkok
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CitationSopranzetti, Claudio. 2013. The Owners of the Map: motorcycle taxi drivers, mobility, and politics in Bangkok. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation offers an ethnography of motorcycle taxi drivers: Bangkok's most important and informal network of everyday mobility. Drawing on over eight years of experience in the region, six months of archival research, and 24 months of fieldwork, I analyze how the drivers, mostly male rural migrants, negotiate their presence in the city through spatial expertise, bodily practices, and social relations. Their physical mobility through traffic, I argue, shapes their ability to find unexplored routes in the social, economic, and political landscapes of the city and to create paths for action where other urban dwellers see a traffic jam or a political gridlock. My narrative builds up to the role of these drivers in the Red Shirt protests that culminated in May 2010 and analyzes how their practices as transportation and delivery providers shape their role in political uprisings and urban guerilla confrontations. My main finding is that when the everyday life of the city breaks down the drivers take advantage of their position in urban circuits of exchange to emerge as central political actors in contemporary Bangkok by blocking, slowing down, or filtering the circulation of people, goods, and information which they normally facilitate. Owners of the Map proposes an alternative view of contemporary urbanism in which the city is constructed day after day through the work of connection and mediation, its frictions and failures, the tactics adopted to resist them, as well as the political tensions that emerge from these struggles.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11169780
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