Populist becoming: The red shirt movement and political affliction in Thailand

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, I explore the ways in which political subjectivities take shape through populist mobilization and dissipation. While the rise and increasing electoral success of populist movements across the world are largely attributed to charismatic leadership that conjures the will of "the people, " much less known is how people become populist subjects at a particular historical juncture. By attending to personal accounts of participation and detachment in a mass movement known as the Red Shirts in Thailand, I explore how the politics of becoming that emerges from this movement obfuscates the conventional distinction between populist and democratic identification. The articulation of populist subjects' aspiration and affliction provides a window into the undetermined aspects of political mobilization from the realm of the ordinary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-579
Number of pages25
JournalCultural Anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments I am deeply grateful to Aunt Ta and all the interlocutors I met in Chiang Mai for inviting me into their lives. I am also very grateful to Philip Taylor for our many conversations over the years that have significantly contributed to my thinking on populism and subjectivities. For helpful feedback on very early versions of this work, a special thank-you goes to the late Nicholas Tapp, as well as to Andrew Walker, Geoff Buchanan, and Preedee Hongsaton. I would also like to thank Tyrell Haberkorn and Prasert Rangkla for kindly making additional comments and suggestions on a later version of the manuscript. I further owe a debt of gratitude to the three anonymous reviewers, as well as the editors of Cultural Anthropology, who provided crucial comments that helped clarify my argument. This article is much stronger because of the reviewers’ thoughtful input, and because of Christopher Nelson’s editorial work during the final stage of revision. I am also grateful to Petra Dreiser and Jessica Lockrem for copyediting and proofreading. Preedee Hongsaton and Thirayut Sangangamsakun provided invaluable help in translating the abstract from English to Thai. Any mistakes are my own. The writing of this article was partly supported by the Yonsei University Future-leading Research Initiative (2018-22-0101).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Anthropological Association.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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