Trude Renwick is a scholar of architecture and urbanism in Thailand and Southeast Asia whose research examines the intersections of commercial, spiritual and infrastructural space. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in Architecture History, Theory and Society with a designated emphasis in Anthropology and a certificate in Global Urban Humanities in 2021. She also received a Master’s in Design Studies with a focus on the History and Philosophy of Design from Harvard University.
At HKU Trude will complete her first book manuscript, tentatively titled “Eat, Pray, Shop: Spiritual Practice and the Shaping of Global Commercial Space in Bangkok.” This ethnography examines the role of official and unofficial spiritual practice in shaping Bangkok’s commercial landscape. Cases like the 2016 restrictions on street vending, the rebranding of Bangkok’s luxury malls, and the emergence of the city’s first creative district demonstrate how spiritual space is used to legitimize as well as resist commercial development. She completed this research over a span of two years and was funded by a Fulbright – Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grant.
Her next project, “Peripheries Mobilized,” examines the impact of the Chinese-sponsored Pan Asia Railway on conceptions of periphery and frontier in cities along its central route. As key nodes along this new infrastructural network, previously “peripheral” urban outposts like Khon Kaen and Luang Namtha are now central foci for the Thai and Lao governments. Investments made in these remote cities by their respective national governments are not only in tourism and trade but in the creative industries and other intellectual infrastructures. Questions she hopes to explore through this project include: How is this newfound infrastructural investment altering the flow of labor into and out of these urban centers? Who are some of the non-state project stakeholders involved in the development of these small cities from artists to corporations?