The Rajadamnoen Avenue: Contesting Urban Meanings and Political Memories

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Koompong Noobanjong


This research presents an inquiry on the transformations of Rajadamnoen Avenue and its adjacent areas. Constructed in the late-19th century, this 3.2 km-long urban stretch has operated as a representation of power, therefore occupying a prominent space both in the urban fabric of the capital city and in the collective psyche of the Thais. Aside from serving the monarchy and existing power holders, the Rajadamnoen has functioned as the locus of all major contests to power and authority in Thailand. While challengers to power haved transformed its landscape, the avenue has also conditioned how and where the contestants could use it to make their marks, claims, demands, and representations. Because of such historical and political importance, the upcoming analytical and critical discussions first look into the Rajadamnoen as a symbolic device for the state and ruling authority to manifest, legitimize, and maintain political power. The focus of these investigations subsequently shifts to examine the avenue in terms of a contested space, where ordinary citizens haved re-appropriated it by means of semantic subversions to practice their social and political activities as well as to create their modern identities. Although the physicality of the Rajadamnoen has not been substantially altered during the past four decades, the political struggles have changed the meanings and memories of the avenue considerably in many ways. For that reason, this study seeks to illustrate the complexity and paradoxes in interpreting the meanings of this strip of urban space, which coexist, converge, contradict, and contest with one another.


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