The Fish, the Sea, and the Political Economy of the Partial Border Citizen Regime at Two Border Towns in Thailand

Feb 5 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Pitch Pongsawat (Assistant Professor, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Discussant/chair: Michael Herzfeld (Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the Harvard University Asia Center

This talk is based on research conducted at two border towns in Thailand (Ranong and Mahachai) on the Thai-Myanmar coastal border.  Unlike most Thai-Myanmar border research, which focuses on the northern and western land-based border areas, this talk will focus on the characteristics of sea-based border towns in central and southern Thailand and the political economy of the spatialized border partial citizenship of those towns.  On the one hand, these two border towns share the main characteristics of Thailand’s urban border space: a fast growing economy, porosity of physical border space, complex cross-border trade, and a large population of “disguised but visible” illegal migrants from Myanmar who perform the roles of cross-border agents and/or highly exploited workers with a tendency to have human trafficking connections.  On the other hand, the nature of the sea-border, fishery and fishery processing industries, and the so-called border partial citizenship regime create an interesting trajectory for these two border towns in the context of the global food economy and regional border instability in Southeast Asia.