CSEAS Colloquium: The Ground Is Shifting Below Our Feet: The ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ along the Thai-Myanmar Borderlands

Date: 24th October, 2019
Time: 13:30-14:30
Place: Middle Sized Meeting Room, 3F, Inamori Foundation Building, Kyoto University

The Ground Is Shifting Below Our Feet: The ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ along the Thai-Myanmar Borderlands

Within the ethos of the “new normal,” marginal migrants are not only workers and/or patients, but also consumers in this fast-changing capitalized and technologized world. It is a world whereby digital consumers are surveilled and “speed, surprise, and sudden shifts in direction” in expansive global markets are the norm, not the exception. In other words, through the capital-digital circuit, marginal migrants, like every consumer in this circuit, are deeply surveilled. The stark differences between marginal migrants and non-marginal-migrants are that many of the former are illiterate (or with very little basic formal-education), poor, illegal, unskilled/low skilled. Moreover, although the inauguration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), on December 31, 2015, resulted in more openness toward otherness, in the case of Thailand, being a marginal migrant other could still translate into trouble. Through the tropes of “light” and “dark,” this talk will present the changing contours of the lives and spaces along the Thai-Myanmar borderlands affected by the capital-digital circuit: how the fates of marginal migrants along the borderlands are bleak and will be even more so for many years to come, as comprehensively positive changes are not on the horizon – amidst the shifting ground below everyone’s feet.


Decha Tangseefa, Associate Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies

Although originally trained in political science and philosophy, I have since 2000 been conceptually situating my research at the intertwining relations of four notions: violence, difference, marginality, and temporality. It is thus crucial for my research to always blur different genres of various disciplines of the human sciences: political science, philosophy, anthropology, and history. My research fields lie at the nexus between migration studies and border studies, focusing especially on the Thai-Myanmar borderlands. It is a border region to where most of my publications on the following issues have devoted: death & atrocity; refugee; music & youth; ethnicity; marginal migrant workers; “cultural fluency”; community engagement; malaria elimination; and special economic zone. My next books include Mae Sot SEZ: Capitalizing Space, Depleting the Margin(al)? (Routledge, forthcoming 2020, a co-authored book with Charlie Thame, M.L. Pinitbhand Paribatra); Light, Water and Rice Stalk: Cultural Fluency for Alterity. (Kobfai Publishing Project, forthcoming 2020, 2nd edition, in Thai). Moreover, during 2008-2011, I was also teaching in a college in a “refugee camp” along the borderlands, while simultaneously teaching at Thammasat University.

Moderator: Prof. Noboru Ishikawa