Anthropology Seminar Series

Date Thursday 9 September 2021
Time 3:10pm - 4:30pm
Where Zoom ( )
Presenter Bronwyn Isaacs (Anthropology Programme)
Contact Fiona McCormack
Contact email
Admission Cost Free

Advertising “Inspiration” and Influencer-Activists: Visual Altercations for Social and Political Change in Thailand by Bronwyn Isaacs (Anthropology Programme)

Bangkok is a regional hub for the advertising industry in Southeast Asia. A busy and bourgeoning industry is built on the back of decades of international financial investment and longstanding local practices that emphasise the spiritual power of images. Many of Bangkok’s youthful workforce have skills in areas such as camera work, digital editing, illustration, make-up, costuming and props. Increasing shifts toward digital advertising have moreover transformed not only visual industries in Southeast Asia but also the political landscape. Major brands now aim for a more intimate, immediate and constant presence in consumers’ lives that highlights “social responsibility” and ethical behaviour. Meanwhile, young people are using online platforms to organise, communicate and influence society in ways that more easily circumvent public censorship, restrictions on movement, expectations about social morality and political influence. In this shared online space, consumerism and progressive politics become seemingly paradoxical bedfellows where communities of citizen-consumers are demanding political transparency and ethical purpose. Consumer-citizenship is typically understood as a depoliticising form of identity formation. This is true of Thailand where “socially responsible” advertising animates a larger market shift to align citizenship with middle class consumer aspirations. At the same time however, consumer-activist collaborations and nationalist-cosmopolitan aestheticsillustrate that the visual politics of social media are shaping emerging expressions of citizenship and polity with multiple and surprising effects.

For reasons beyond her control, Australia-based Bronwyn Isaacs teaches online in the Anthropology Programme. Her arrival in Hamilton is greatly anticipated.