28 Nov Sensing the Waterscape-Re-Assembling the Politics of Climate Change and Displacement in Bangkok, Thailand
Sensing the Waterscape-Re-Assembling the Politics of Climate Change and Displacement in Bangkok, Thailand
The effects of climate change on human society and urban metropolises in the Global South, such as Bangkok, have been widely discussed in academic and policy circles. In the last few decades, debates on climate change and displacement have particularly captured the attention of the media, policymakers and academics. So-called “climate refugees” have advanced as the “human face of climate change”. Critically examining the literature on the relationship between climate change and displacement that either sees this relationship as deterministic (so-called Maximalist position) or complex (so-called Minimalist position), this dissertation seeks to reorient debates on climate change and displacement to consider the link between both compounds as an emerging assemblage. The dissertation argues that such a perspective allows for a more-than Western ontology, a nuanced engagement with urban spaces such as Bangkok, in which climate change and displacement begin to materialise and contribute to a political quest for open futures.
Within this emerging assemblage, affective forces, human and non-human actors, the urban materiality of a fragmented waterscape shapes and influences the politics of climate change and displacement. Through an intra-urban comparative research design that utilises a range of qualitative and ethnographic methods (e.g. participant observations, semi-structured interviews, walk-along interviews), the emerging heterogeneous urban climate change and displacement assemblage is investigated. In three empirical chapters, the dissertation attends to the historical fragmentation of Bangkok’s waterscape and its connections to contemporary and future climate change and displacement; the 2011 inundation in which wide parts of the city were flooded, involving diverse topologies of displacement; and finally two urban struggles over the re-engineering of Bangkok’s waterscape, in which the political contestations that are at stake within the climate change and displacement assemblage are analysed and compared.
The dissertation argues that through re-framing debates on climate change and migration through an assemblage approach, a more sensory, nuanced, and ultimately more complex understanding of the political nature of the relationship between climate change and displacement is advanced.