Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
This paper explores coffee shop culture in Chiang Mai, Thailand through a study of authenticity, commodification, and representation. Chiang Mai is home to dozens of aesthetic and eccentric cosmopolitan-style coffee shops which have architecture, layouts, and decorations that greatly contrast with the local restaurants and shops’ traditional Thai and Buddhism-themed decor. With extravagant spaces, food, and drink—including net seating over waterfalls, international-award-winning latte art, and crazy themes, ranging from rainbow unicorns to American 80s to minimalist flower-covered barns—every coffee shop I visited in Chiang Mai was a unique and interactive culinary experience filled with aesthetic pleasure and fun. Drawing on in-person participant observation at 20+ Chiang Mai coffee shops and digital ethnographic research, I argue that the existence of these cosmopolitan coffee shops demonstrate that the Thai tourism industry’s narrative of authentic Thai culture does not tell the full story of “authentic” Thailand. These different representations of Thailand demonstrate how malleable definitions of cultural identity are becoming in an increasingly globalized world. Furthermore, I describe how through the rise of picture-sharing social media sites such as Instagram, these aesthetic cafes have become physically and digitally immersive, interactive public spaces that allow people to reshape their sense of self. Specifically, I examine the “Instagrammability” of Chiang Mai coffee shops and how this feature intersects with the construction of personal identity in the digital sphere.
Cunningham, Margot, "Social Spaces, Tourism, “Instagrammability, and Authenticity: The Phenomenon of Eccentric and Aesthetic Cosmopolitan-Style Coffee Shops in Chiang Mai, Thailand" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 1669.
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