Thai Mobilities and Cultural Citizenship
Author: Mary Beth Mills
In recent decades geographic mobility in Thai rural communities has intensified and broadened in scope. As a result, the lives of many and perhaps most rural citizens no longer (if they ever did) fit easily with popular portraits of rurality as stable, isolated, and intrinsically different from the dynamic modernity of urban Thailand. Nevertheless, as the rhetoric of the ongoing national political crisis illustrates, rural–urban divisions remain powerful symbols in contemporary Thai society. This article examines how Thai mobilities both reflect and contribute to processes of self-imagining and national identification, posing questions for conventional understandings of the "rural–urban divide" in Thailand. Dominant discourses of urbanity and rurality contrast sharply with villagers' lived experiences of rural–urban flows and other mobility practices. Drawing on fieldwork with migrants and others in rural and urban Thailand, as well as on related scholarship, this article explores some of the ways in which Thai mobilities engender conflicting experiences of and desires for cultural citizenship and national belonging.