Brokers of Nostalgia: Shan Migrant Public Spheres in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Amporn JirattikornEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Migration book series (IPMI, volume 2)


The recent influx of Shan migrant workers from Burma into Thailand provided the conditions for Shan ‘migrant public spheres’ to emerge. This chapter focuses on the public spheres that Shan migrants create in the city of Chiang Mai: Radio airwaves, Buddhist temples, and festivities. It discusses Shan migrant public spheres in three important aspects. First, it examines how the Thai state employs migrant public spheres to control its alien population. Second, the chapter introduces another group of Shans in Chiang Mai—the long-term resident Shans. The recent mass migration of Shan migrants into this city creates an interesting relationship between the new arrivals and the long-term residents. Obviously, economic and educational factors as well as citizenship make the long-term resident Shans different from the new arrivals. The former’s cultural capital enables them to become cultural brokers, mediating the interests of Shan migrants with the Thai state. Third, while the Thai state and Shan ethnic brokers may turn Shan public spheres into forms of both consumption and technologies of control, the chapter shows how Shan migrants participate in these public spheres and to what extent they accommodate themselves into the dominant order. Shan migrant public spheres provide examples of how ethnicity is sustained in urban areas as a good business venture, and of how these spheres provide intersecting sites of expression and negotiation of cultural selves and identities.


Ethnic Identity Public Sphere Cultural Capital Radio Program Cultural Broker 
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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences and DevelopmentChiang Mai UniversityChiang MaiThailand

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