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Messy UrbanismUnderstanding the "Other" Cities of Asia$
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Manish Chalana

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9789888208333

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888208333.001.0001

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The Royal Field (Sanam Luang): Bangkok’s Polysemic Urban Palimpsest

The Royal Field (Sanam Luang): Bangkok’s Polysemic Urban Palimpsest

(p.81) Chapter 5 The Royal Field (Sanam Luang): Bangkok’s Polysemic Urban Palimpsest
Messy Urbanism

Koompong Noobanjong

Hong Kong University Press

Created in 1782, the Royal Field—or Sanam Luang—is a large open space located at the heart of Bangkok, occupying a prominent space both in the urban fabric of the city and in the collective psyche of Thai people. Apart from serving the monarchy and existing power holders, this polysemic landscape has functioned as a site where major contestants to power and authority in modern Thailand had collided in making their marks, claims, demands, and representations. Via the concept of urban palimpsest, this chapter first examines the Royal Field in terms of a symbolic device for ruling authority to manifest, legitimize, and maintain power. The scholarly focus then shifts to the topic of a contested space, where different groups of contenders had re-appropriated Sanam Luang to perform their social and political activities as well as to create their modern identities. The analytical and critical inquiries on the Royal Field essentially argue that it is in fact a dynamic urban palimpsest, whose meanings have: 1) coexisted, converged, contradicted, and contested with one another; 2) been subjected to further appropriations and contentions; and 3) resulted in slippage of public memories, thus generating even more complex and vibrant interpretations.

Keywords:   Critical urban study, Culture and politics in the built environment, Meanings and memories of place, Contested space, Bangkok

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