RE: “Bangkok Noir: Crime Fiction in the City of Angels” | The Diplomat
Bangkok is “one of those cities” in my mind that’s both exotic and exogenous. Like Istanbul, Cairo, São Paulo, Nairobi—massive “Global South” metropolises where there’s not only a different way of doing, but a different way of “knowing,” as well.
This otherness makes them rich settings for crime fiction. (Baghdad used to be on that list, too, but, well …)
In places such as these (read: in my mind), experiencing an epistemic crisis where “everything you know is wrong” can itself be “a crime,” and thus a significant part of a noir / sci-fi plot.
In this way, an American Bangkok is essentially impossible now, as we’ve demystified the American City, as such. Every American city (even New Orleans) is essentially and thoroughly a neoliberal city now, where “government is run like a business.” (Even Especially those cities in decline.) Practically every city here in the Global North is such or one day will be. How dreary it is to be a customer instead of a citizen. We Global Northerners live in such dreary, conformist, surveilled, and therefore terrorfied times that places of irreducible and beautiful otherness (regardless of how thoroughly animated they are by global capitalism) haven’t had Bangkok’s allure and psychic value since fin de siècle Paris, or New York in the Post-Bop 50s.
Closer to home, I sometimes see little glitches of my idea of Bangkok here in Baltimore, itself at times a dystopian wonderland that can be simultaneously exhilarating and deadening (which is why I call my city “Dismaland” after Banksy’s recent art installation/theme park.)
In these moments I realize that in these times no place or person will be primed for all that will be dreamlike and nightmarish about “The Future” without a little Bangkok in their hearts.
“Oriental city.” It will be the 22nd century Los Angeles—if our species makes it there.
IMAGE SOURCE: By User:Diliff (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons