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PROGRESS AND ITS RUINS: Ghosts, Migrants, and the Uncanny in Thailand



This article analyzes stories of ghosts and criminals told by residents and workers in urban high-rise buildings and suburban gated communities in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. For many in Chiang Mai's “communities of exclusion,” the fantasy of progressive, orderly neighborhoods and intellectual, prosperous communities coexisted with stories of empty streets haunted by violent ghosts and drug-addicted foreign invaders. With the added shocks of economic and political crises in 1997 and 2006, events that littered the Chiang Mai skyline with abandoned buildings, the idea of progress in Chiang Mai—in the Thai idiom of khwam charoen—underwent its own crisis. Through an analysis of these stories of progressive or haunted sites, I show how, for many in these communities of exclusion, the fantasy of progress and development has been rendered uncanny.