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Bangkok Utopia: A Book Talk with Lawrence Chua and Anoma Pieris


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Lawrence Chua’s Bangkok Utopia (University of Hawai’i Press, 2021) outlines an alternative genealogy of both utopia and modernism in a part of the world that has often been overlooked by scholars of both. Using Thai- and Chinese-language archival sources, the book demonstrates how the new spaces of the city became arenas for modern subject formation, utopian desires, political hegemony, and social unrest, arguing that the modern city was a space of antinomy—one able not only to sustain heterogeneous temporalities, but also to support conflicting world views within the urban landscape.

Lawrence Chua is an associate professor of architectural history at the School of Architecture, Syracuse University. He has been  a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute, a Marie S. Curie fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, and a fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies in Leiden. He is the author of Bangkok Utopia: Modern Architecture and Buddhist felicities (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2021). His writing has also appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the Journal of Architecture, and the Journal of Urban History. He is co-editor, with Cole Roskam, of the book series ArchAsia: Histories and Futures of Asia's Architecture, Urbanism, and Environments for Hong Kong University Press. With the artists Julie Mehretu and Paul Pfeiffer, he is a founding board member of Denniston Hill, a queer artist of color-led arts and social justice organization in upstate New York.

Anoma Pieris is a Professor of Architecture in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at The University of Melbourne. Her previous publications include Architecture and Nationalism in Sri Lanka: The Trouser under the Cloth (2012), Hidden Hands and Divided Landscapes: A Penal History of Singapore’s Plural Society (2009), Sovereignty, Space and Civil War in Sri Lanka (2018) and the anthology Architecture on the Borderline: Boundary Politics and Built Space (2019). She is co-author with Lynne Horiuchi of The Architecture of Confinement: Incarceration Camps of the Pacific War (forthcoming in 2022).


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