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Ghosts of the New CitySpirits, Urbanity, and the Ruins of Progress in Chiang Mai$
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Andrew Alan Johnson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839390

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839390.001.0001

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Progress and Its Ruins

Progress and Its Ruins

(p.7) 1 Progress and Its Ruins
Ghosts of the New City

Andrew Alan Johnson

University of Hawai'i Press

Under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, Chiang Mai underwent a wave of construction, construction that was thrown suddenly in doubt with Thaksin’s ouster in 2006. These new buildings had ghostly doubles in the shells of construction abandoned after the 1997 economic crisis. As I began to ask about these abandoned structures, my informants often spontaneously introduced the topic of ghosts, migrants, and misfortune. The abandoned buildings were, for them, signs of something cosmically wrong with promises of economic growth and prosperity. I argue here that this sense of crisis manifested as an epidemic of “ghosts of violent death,” a panic which touched upon Northern Thai fears of failure, dislocation, and displacement. The figure of the ghost paralleled that of the migrant, those “Burmese” illegal refugees who were thought to sow chaos and disorder within the city, but where ironically the source of the labor which built the new high-rises

Keywords:   Uncanny, Thailand, haunting, ghosts, migration, Burmese, progress

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