The political protests of the “Red Shirts” movement in Thailand in April-May 2010 ended in tragedy, with the security forces killing over 90 people and injuring thousands more. Thailand’s political protests have been studied from many different angles, but perhaps the most unusual approach to this subject is to be found in Benjamin Tausig
’s book, Bangkok is Ringing: Sound, Protest, & Constraint
(Oxford University Press, 2019).
This book examines the protests and the associated violence from a sound studies perspective. The book is an ethnographic study of the sounds that accompanied the protests: music, rally speeches, sound trucks, mobile phone ringtones, whistle-blowers, hand-clappers, and much more. All these sounds, in Tausig’s words, “pulse with meaning”. A fascinating theoretical argument weaves the different sounds discussed in the book together: that constraints on movement in the political realm are reflected in constraints on movement in the sonic world. And towards the end of the book, in a Bangkok backstreet, Mark Zuckerberg makes an appearance.
An audio version of Bangkok is Ringing: Sound, Protest, & Constraint
is available here
Listeners to this episode might also enjoy listening to Tyrell Haberkorn talking about her new book, In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand
(U. of Wisconsin Press, 2018) or, to Andrew Walker about his book, Thailand’s Political Peasants: Power in the Modern Rural Economy
(U Wisconsin Press, 2012).