Mapping the City of the Gods: Bangkok, Ethnicity, and the Galactic Polity

Stanley Tambiah’s idea of the Galactic Polity, alongside previous ways of defining urban centers in Southeast Asia as Mueang, Mandala, or Nagara have been very useful in trying to understand the ritual, symbolic, and political ways of defining royal centers of power in the region. However, all-encompassing definitions always exclude as much as they include. This paper explores ways of understanding the founding and growth of the last Buddho-Brahmanic royal city of Southeast Asia — Bangkok. What and who gets excluded in the galactic polity and how does the ethnic history of the city help revisit the ways in which we understand the first 250 years of one of the world’s great cities.