Displacement through the Commons: Community and Spatial Order in Bangkok

Hayden Shelby, Trude Renwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article investigates the relationship of discourses around community to larger urban processes of development and displacement in Bangkok, Thailand. It focuses on two sites located along a major commercial corridor. The first, undergoing a process of relocation that involves establishing collective land tenure, goes by the Thai term for community, chumchon, though architects and planners frequently refer to it as a “slum.” The second site, an upscale “community mall” called the Commons, is a newly constructed open-air commercial space built to serve Bangkok's young, hip creative class. The eviction of the poor chumchon residents in favor of wealthy café-goers may look like a prime example of larger structural forces of what is often called “gentrification” or “accumulation by dispossession.” However, these sweeping narratives around global capitalist processes miss critical aspects of how the discursive construction of community around these two sites has enabled their physical construction and deconstruction. We demonstrate that rhetorics, imagery, and practices of community serve to valorize the existence of one site while justifying the removal of the other. This analysis demonstrates this outcome was not just the inevitable result of impersonal structural forces. It was displacement through the commons, fueled by discourses around community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-202
Number of pages12
JournalCity and Society
Issue number3
Early online date6 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2023


  • community
  • community development
  • gentrification
  • globalization
  • urban theory


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