Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationChicago, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9737
Approve DateOctober 23, 2018
Project TitleLowe, Taylor R., U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Designing Dhammacracy: An Ethnography of Design Activism and the New Thai Parliament,' supervised by Dr. Constantine V. Nakassis
TAYLOR LOWE, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded a grant in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Designing Dhammacracy: An Ethnography of Design Activism and the New Thai Parliament,’ supervised by Dr. Constantine V. Nakassis. Retitled Designing Dhammacracy: Design Activism and Cosmopolitical Representation in Thailand, this research analyzes why design became a powerful field of activism in Thai politics. While three competing political institutions — the military, the monarchy, and the parliament — vied for power in Thailand between 2009-2019, groups of activist architects attempted to change political relations in the polity by transforming a shared cosmological form, the mythological form of Mt Meru, into both the country’s new parliament (the world’s largest) and a $90 million temporary royal crematorium. Based on 24 months of fieldwork with the architects that designed these buildings, Designing Dhammacracy theorizes how Thai architects configured design as a political praxis during the conjuncture of two interregna: first, the only royal succession in 70 years and, second, the ruling dictatorship’s specious restoration of democracy. Designing Dhammacracy ethnographically studies the materialization of a political ideology that the grantee is calling ‘dhammacracy,’ which emerged from the interregna’s crucible of popular, dictatorial, dhammic and royalist sovereignties and materialized spectacularly in the design and politics of the new Thai parliament building.