Bangkok Panorama

Samson Lim

Singapore University Of Technology And Design, Singapore, Singapore

In the history of the development of new technologies of visualization, two impulses can be identified. One is to be immersed within the sights themselves (e.g. virtual reality). The other is to see everything at once (e.g. aerial photography). Both urges are apparent in the deployment of photography and modern accounting methods in Bangkok during the early twentieth century. The camera provided the ability to create a panorama of the rapidly changing city, the most famous examples made by John Thomson and Francis Chit, and was eagerly embraced by members of the royal family. Account books revealed the growing wealth of the city, and of the emerging nation-state, in a single glance and were imposed by European advisors to regulate the operation of the state. An analysis of these two technologies, I argue, will show how a broader tactic of vision developed in the early twentieth century and subsequently shaped the operation of both the political economy and social relations in Bangkok over the past hundred years.


Samson Lim is an Associate Professor of History at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. He has published on the history visualization practices of the Thai police and is currently working on a project that explores the visual culture of finance in twentieth century Bangkok.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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