Searching for a better life: young people living in slum communities in Bangkok

  • Sorcha Mahony

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis explores the everyday lives and dreams of young people living in urban poverty in Thailand, focusing on their practices and aspirations within three key spheres of action. In recent years, a number of emerging bodies of literature have taken youth in the developing world as the objects of their analysis; the literature on youth in Thailand, studies of youth and development within the Thai and international spheres, and the new anthropology of youth each focus on the lives of young people – social, cultural and economic – and see youth as active agents in the creation of society, culture and the economy. This thesis, drawing on the analysis of ethnographic data, contends that each of these bodies of literature constructs young people in partial or misleading ways, and in particular that insufficient emphasis is placed on the unintended consequences that can ensue from everyday practice and the pursuit of dreams. It argues that if these emerging literatures on youth in the developing world are to adequately conceptualise and represent young people, then they must attend to these unintended consequences. As the thesis will demonstrate, doing so facilitates analysis of the ways in which different spheres of action affect each other, of the structures that constrain and enable young people, and of the way in which attempting to participate in dominant cultures can have profoundly counter-productive outcomes. The thesis also explores some of the methodological processes involved in immersion in, and withdrawal from, „the field‟. It argues that one of the tasks of social research is to bring out the multiple and shifting nature of interpretation, and to be explicit about the contexts in which such interpretations are produced.
Date of Award1 Apr 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSarah White (Supervisor)


  • Thailand
  • agency
  • youth

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