ABSTRACT

Some studies estimate that between 1 and 2 million people in Bangkok live in what are often called ‘slums and squatter settlements’. The terms are unfortunate because of their pejorative connotations. If squatter settlements are defined as clusters of structures that violate building regulations, Bangkok is full of buildings that violate regulations, not only settlements of the poor but also modern hotels, offices and condominiums. It is true that some neighbourhoods of the poor occupy land against its owner’s objection, but most have the explicit or silent consent of the owner. Rather than referring to the physical state of the buildings, the term ‘slum’ is often actually used to refer to a place that houses people society looks down on.2 In his “Theory of Slums”, Stokes distinguished “slums of hope” and “slums of despair”. “Hope” refers to the intention of slum dwellers to improve themselves and their expectation of a positive outcome. “Despair” denotes the absence of such an intention or a negative estimate of the probable outcome of such an attempt.3 The term ‘slum’ tends to refer to “slums of despair”, but the settlements in Bangkok are mostly “slums of hope”.