Spectral Polities and Brute Force: Subversive Archaism and the State in Thailand

Professor Michael Herzfeld (Department of Anthropology, Harvard University) will visit University of Copenhagen and give a public talk with focus on his new book Subversive Archaism: Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National Heritage (Duke University Press, January 2022) as well as his current research on crypto-colonialism.

This is a hybrid event and you can join in person in room 4A.0.56 on South Campus or via Zoom. Sign up here to receive Zoom link.


Modern Thailand conceals within its bustling cities the persistent evidence of a past way of life with a very different kind of polity from today’s bureaucratic ethnonational state. Working from his field materials from the now-disbanded urban enclave of Pom Mahakan in Bangkok, the speaker will show how that earlier polity infuses both the official self-image of the country and the archaizing attitudes of some who yearn for a different social and political order and creatively deploy the state’s own heritage rhetoric to promote that alternative social vision.


Michael Herzfeld

Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences (Emer), Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, where has taught since 1991. His research interests include social theory, history of anthropology, social poetics, politics of history; Europe (especially Greece & Italy), and Thailand. A leading figure in the discipline of Social Anthropology, he has received numerous grants, prizes, and awards and has lectured and taught at universities around the world.

In addition to his long list of books - the most recent of which are Ours Once More: Folklore, Ideology, and the Making of Modern Greece (new, expanded edition, Berghahn 2020); Life Among Urban Planners: Practice, Professionalism, and Expertise in the Making of the City, co-edited with Jennifer Mack (University of Pennsylvania Press) - Michael Herzfeld has produced numerous articles and reviews as well as two ethnographic films (Monti Moments [2007] and Roman Restaurant Rhythms [2011]).