Through Ara Wilson’s detailing of her exploration of Bangkok in her ethnography “The Intimate Economies of Bangkok”, I was able to become an observer of the meshing of the native culture that already existed in Bangkok with the Western culture that has been spreading into the nation for many years. Typically the concept of cultural homogenization discusses an extremely skewed power dynamic in which one regional culture (typically one that exists in countries that have been classified as developing) is taken over and dissembled by the presence of the prevalent Western culture. From Wilson’s account, I find that economies in Bangkok are not so much experiencing a homogenization, but a merging of different cultures which keeps the elements of
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As is the case in many countries who are introduced to culture of capitalism, Thailand experienced a boon in the interest concerning Western goods and business models. Chapter 3 of Wilson’s ethnography discusses the influx of malls that started in the 1970s and was still in place during Wilson’s time in Bangkok. Before the introduction of the culture of capitalism, malls did not exist in Thailand. Instead the Thai/Sino-Thai utilized the traditional shop-house or market place which featured a more individual approach when it came to selling items as opposed to malls having stores selling various goods all condensed and placed into a particular area.
While the notion of the mall existing in Thailand may appear to represent the homogenization of the Thai marketplace, elements of traditional Thai culture ended up weaving themselves into the structure that existed within the mall. In the cases of various malls that Wilson discussed in her third chapter, the owners of the malls were sure to include structures that would be family friendly (such as theme parks, miniature zoos, and ice skating rinks). However, many of these structures, in the words of Wilson, “represented high investments, but usually low returns.” Despite the disparity between the investment in these structures and the income that they yielded,