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History and Theory Research Seminar Series: Spatial Cleansing, High Modernism and the Crypto-Colonial Imagination of the Past

Michael Herzfeld
When Nov 28, 2013
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Boardroom, Department of Architecture
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Working from his field materials from Bangkok, Thailand, the speaker will show how the apparently conflicting of high modernism and historic heritage conservation converge, in this neoliberal age, to produce patterns of gentrification that are parts of a large-scale reconfiguration of the ideals of Thai urban life. Resistance to this process, often grounded in a self-conscious traditionalism, runs the risk of unintended complicity and even entrapment in the apparently inexorable march of reconfiguration, but may also open up new spaces for negotiating rights to the city and to cultural self-determination in the interstices of increasingly massive urban projects.

MICHAEL HERZFELD is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1991. He is an honorary professor of Shandong University, China, and is also affiliated with departments at Thammasat University (Bangkok) and the Universities of Rome (La Sapienza) and Siena. The author of ten books—including A Place in History (1991), Cultural Intimacy (1997; 2nd ed., 2005), The Body Impolitic (2004), and Evicted from Eternity (2009)—and numerous articles and reviews, he has also produced two ethnographic films: Monti Moments(2007) and Roman Restaurant Rhythms (2011). His honors include the J.I. Staley Prize and the Rivers Memorial Medal (both in 1994) and honorary doctorates from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2005), the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki (2011), and the University of Crete (2013).

His most recent research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand has addressed the social and political impact of historic conservation and gentrification, the dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals. He is currently working on a book and a film about the politics of heritage and spatiality in Bangkok, and is also initiating a more theoretical and general study of ‘crypto-colonialism’ during his Visiting Fellowship at King’s College this term.