UKNA lunch lecture

Modelling queertopia: the miniature democratic city of King Vajiravudh

A lecture by Dr Lawrence Chua (IIAS fellow and Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture, Syracuse University, New York, USA)

Organised by IIAS and the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA).

Lunch is provided; registration is required

The lecture

In 1918, the last fully-reigning absolute monarch of Siam built a model city on the grounds of his palace. Named “Dusit Thani: Muang Prachatiptai”, which might literally be translated as “Heavenly City: The Democratic Polis,” this highly-detailed utopian landscape occupied a little under an acre (4000 square meters) and was composed of over 300 miniature structures, including fully electrified private houses, theaters, cinemas, banks, palaces, a regularly convened bi-cameral parliament, as well as a constitution, a police force, fire department, a tax system, and three newspapers.

As urban model, mediated landscape, and theatrical stage, it became the center of a queer aesthetic regime that linked the king’s prolific endeavors in architecture, literature, theater, fashion, and visual art with the training of a modern ruling class.

The scale model was both political tool and speculative play toy for King Vajiravudh, who sought to experiment with not only a parliamentary system of government, but also with new social arrangements that disrupted the polygynous hetero-normative atmosphere of earlier iterations of the royal palace.

Situated deep within the inner sanctum of two royal palaces, Dusit Thani was a utopian canvas that allowed Vajiravudh to experiment with modelling a form of nationalism based on queer social and spatial relations. The models, drawings, and landscape interventions produced for the miniature city sought to make the homosocial relations of Vajiravudh’s nationalism appear natural. It did this by situating an eclectic collection of architectural forms associated with the burgeoning concept of siwilai or “civilization” within a picturesque landscape.

Dr. Lawrence Chua, Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture, Syracuse University, New York, USA; Affiliated fellow at IIAS (2017); Marie S. Curie FCFP research fellow, Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies, 2018.

Registration (required)

Please register via the webform below if you would like to attend this lunch lecture.

About IIAS Lunch Lectures

Every month, one of the IIAS affiliated fellows will give an informal presentation about his/her work-in-progress for colleagues and others interested.
IIAS organises these lunch lectures to give the research community an opportunity to freely discuss ongoing research and exchange thoughts and ideas. Lunch lectures are sometimes also organised for visiting scholars.