Just as spirit shrines, in their enactment of margin-center dynamics, acted as microcosms for how Chiang Mai elites positioned themselves vis-à-vis the forest, notions of charismatic potential outlined in the religious practices of Northern Thai spirit mediums have uncanny parallels in how Chiang Mai is positioned vis-à-vis Bangkok. Here, a nationalist-inflected “culture,” made manifest in architecture, film depictions, and other aesthetic representations, serves to replace the possessing spirit in determining progressive potential. Culture brokers represent Northern Thailand in a certain, Orientalized in ways that highlight Chiang Mai’s own marginality as well as its attractive potential. Recast not as a center, but as a periphery brimming with prosperous potential, Chiang Mai becomes malleable, feminized, and open to appropriation.
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