Bangkok is a city that epitomizes sprawl. Most of the life of the city—offices, factories, homes, restaurants, etc.—lies on a network of narrow lanes (sois) far from the central, gridlocked streets where bus and train lines run. Navigating these sois in a car is often impossible owing to the traffic; on foot uncertain pavement, darkness, heat, and stray dogs make for an even less appealing prospect. For most Bangkokians, motorbike taxis become a necessity. But this phatic labor (to borrow, as Claudio Sopranzetti does, the term from Julia Elyachar), like the sois themselves, is an accident. Motorbike taxi drivers began and often remain at least partially within the underground economy, staffed by migrants from Thailand's Lao- and Khmer-speaking northeast and watched over by semi-criminal state officials, and the drivers exist in political, social, and cultural tension with Bangkok's hegemonic rule.

One could approach the issue of motorbike taxis...

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