Youth Culture and Identity in Northern Thailand (Routledge, 2020) examines how young people in urban Chiang Mai construct an identity at the intersection of global capitalism, state ideologies, and local culture.
Drawing on over 15 years of ethnographic research, the book explores the impact of rapid urbanisation and modernisation on contemporary Thai youth, focusing on conspicuous youth subcultures, drug use (especially methamphetamine use), and violent youth gangs. Anjalee Cohen shows how young Thai people construct a specific youth identity through consumerism and symbolic boundaries – in particular through enduring rural/urban distinctions. The suggestion is that the formation of subcultures and “deviant” youth practices, such as drug use and violence, are not necessarily forms of resistance against the dominant culture, nor a pathological response to dramatic social change, as typically understood in academic and public discourse. Rather, Cohen argues that such practices are attempts to “fit in and stick out” in an anonymous urban environment.
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