Spaces of male prostitution : tactics, performativity and gay identities in streets, Go-Go bars and magazines in contemporary Bangkok, Thailand
This research explores the spatial practices of male prostitutes meeting gay male clients in various urban environments in Bangkok, Thailand. The research focuses on the male prostitutes’ spatial practices in three meeting places: the streets around Saranrom park, the gay go-go bars in Surawong’s Boys’ Town, and the representations of space in local gay newsletters. Examining the male prostitutes’ spatial practices through ‘tactics’, this research suggests that male prostitutes use the meeting places differently as ways of responding to the ‘strategies’ of gay male clients. This research also suggests that the tactics of male prostitutes can be examined by exploring the relationship between spatial practices and subjectivities. By exploring how specific performative acts constitute male prostitutes’ subjectivities, this research suggests that male prostitutes ‘perform’ homosexuality. This thesis draws upon Judith Butler’s performativity theory as a discursive mode of constituting subjects and Michel de Certeau’s theoretical discussion, specifically spatial practices of ‘strategies’ and ‘tactics’, as a means of differentiating between ‘place’ and ‘space’. Methodologically, this research works in two directions: the first explores how the spatial practices of male prostitution produce ‘gay’ subjectivities in the moment of sexual encounter – arguing that male prostitutes actively reposition themselves as ‘subjects’ rather than ‘objects’ through spatial and sexual practices; and the second examines the social and sexual constitution of space – arguing that ‘places’ are produced as ‘spaces’ through the practices and tactics of male prostitutes. This research aims to make an original contribution to knowledge in four main ways. The first is an exploration of the relationship between de Certeau’s spatial theory of ‘tactics’ and Butler’s concept of ‘performativity’ as a constitution of subjectivity. The second is the use of de Certeau and Butler’s theories to explore three spaces of male prostitution in contemporary Bangkok, Thailand, through observations drawn from interviews, accounts of spatial experience, and discussions of various representations of space. The third is a reconsideration of these theories of performativity and spatial practices in the light of the specific conditions of the case studies in Bangkok. The fourth is the production of new forms of cross-disciplinary knowledge to bring this discussion of tactics, performativity and gay subjectivities in streets, go-go bars and magazines into architectural history and theory, thereby producing new ways of understanding how spaces are produced through encounters and looks.