In 1970 a coalition of student activists opposing the Vietnam War circulated documents revealing the involvement of several prominent social scientists in U.S. counterinsurgency activities in Thailand—activities that could cause harm to the people who were the subject of the scholars’ research. The disclosure of these materials, which detailed meetings with the Agency for International Development and the Defense Department, prompted two members of the Ethics Committee of the American Anthropological Association to issue an unauthorized rebuke of the accused. Over the next two years, the AAA agonized over the allegations and the appropriate response to them. Within an academic community already polarized by the war, political and professional acrimony reached unprecedented levels. Although the association ultimately passed a code of ethics, the key issues raised in the process were never fully resolved.
Now back in print, Eric Wakin's Anthropology Goes to War is the first comprehensive study of what became known as the Thailand Controversy—and a timely reminder of a debate whose echoes may be heard in our own time.
Antidesma is a genus in the family Phyllanthaceae (Malpighiales; Euphorbiaceae sensu lato). It comprises trees and shrubs which are conspicuous by their racemes of often abundant red or purple fruits. The genus is most diverse in South-East Asia where it is commonly found in the understorey of tropical forests as well as in open vegetation. This taxonomic revision describes the 56 species and 13 varieties occurring in Malesia and Thailand. Separate identification keys for staminate and pistillate plants are presented, and critical characters are illustrated. The distribution of each taxon is shown in a map. Ecology, uses, common names, etymology and conservation status are given, and line drawings of 25 taxa are included.
Brendan Leary, assigned to an Air Force photo squadron an hour from L.A., thinks he has it made. But when the U.S. invades Cambodia and he joins his buddies who march in protest, he is shipped off to an obscure air base in upcountry Thailand. There, he finds himself flying at night over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in a secret war that turns the mountains of Laos into a napalm-scorched moonscape. As the emotional vise tightens, his moral fiber crumbles and he sinks ever deeper into a netherworld of drugs, sex, and booze.
When a visit by Nixon looms, Brendan dreams up an all-squadron bicycle race to build morale, win hearts and minds in rural Thailand, and make him and his underpaid buddies a pile of money. The Big Buddha Bicycle Race is a last gasp of hope that turns into a unifying adventure—until the stakes turn out to be far higher than anyone imagined.
The Big Buddha Bicycle Race is a new take on the Vietnam War. A caper on the surface, it is also a tribute to the complex culture and history of Southeast Asia and a sober remembrance of those groups who have been erased from American history—the brash active-duty soldiers who risked prison by taking part in the GI antiwar movement, the gutsy air commandos who risked death night after night flying over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and the people of Laos, whose lives and land were devastated in ways that have yet to be fully acknowledged in Western accounts of the war.
In 1987, zoologist Alan Rabinowitz was invited by the Thai government to study leopards, tigers, and other wildlife in the Huai Kha Khaeng valley, one of Southeast Asia's largest and most prized forests. It was hoped his research would help protect the many species that live in that fragile reserve, which was being slowly depleted by poachers, drug traffickers, and even the native tribes of the area. Chasing the Dragon's Tail is the remarkable story of Rabinowitz's life and adventures in the forest as well as the streets of Bangkok, as he works to protect Thailand's threatened wildlife.Based on Rabinowitz's field journals, the book offers an intimate and moving look at a modern zoologist's life in the field. As he fights floods, fire-ant infestations, elephant stampedes, and a request to marry the daughter of a tribal chief, the difficulties that come with the demanding job of species conservation are dramatically brought to life. First published in 1991, this edition of Chasing the Dragon's Tail includes a new afterword by the author that brings the story up to date, describing the surprising strides Thailand has made recently in conservation.Other titles by Alan Rabinowitz include Beyond the Last Village and Jaguar.
The seventy-year long reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej ended in October 2016. With Bhumibol’s death, Thailand lost their longest-serving monarch, and for the first time in decades the country was left wondering what would happen to their most important political institution. Even as the world moves into a new decade, Thailand is still in an interregnum: a time when the old order is dying but a new one struggles to be born. While Bhumibol’s son King Maha Vajiralongkorn was eventually crowned, Thailand still saw a military coup and continues to face political threats from the still-popular former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
This volume examines the royal transition in Thailand, from the 2014 coup, through its new constitution in 2017, and up to the 2019 election. It brings together some of the leading writers on Thailand and is the first book-length analysis of this deep transition. The contributors examine how the royal transition sparked a crisis that jeopardized the Thai nation and its institutions, from the politicized judiciary to the troubled Sangha, the order of Buddhist monks. They analyze how the uncertainty influenced all aspects of Thai governance, from foreign policy to economic management, to the troubled human rights situation and spread of self-censorship.
Alan Klima Duke University Press, 2019 Library of Congress HC445.K556 2019
As Alan Klima writes in Ethnography #9, “there are other possible starting places than the earnest realism of anthropological discourse as a method of critical thought.” In this experimental ethnography of capitalism, ghosts, and numbers in mid- and late-twentieth-century Thailand, Klima uses this provocation to deconstruct naive faith in the “real” and in the material in academic discourse that does not recognize that it is, itself, writing. Klima also twists the common narrative that increasing financial abstractions in economic culture are a kind of real horror story, entangling it with other modes of abstraction commonly seen as less “real,” such as spirit consultations, ghost stories, and haunted gambling. His unconventional, distinctive, and literary form of storytelling uses multiple voices, from ethnographic modes to a first-person narrative in which he channels Northern Thai ghostly tales and the story of a young Thai spirit. This genre alchemy creates strange yet compelling new relations between being and not being, presence and absence, fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and reality. In embracing the speculative as a writing form, Klima summons unorthodox possibilities for truth in contemporary anthropology.
In 1975, when political scientist Benedict Anderson reached Wat Phai Rong Wua, a massive temple complex in rural Thailand conceived by Buddhist monk Luang Phor Khom, he felt he had wandered into a demented Disneyland. One of the world’s most bizarre tourist attractions, Wat Phai Rong Wua was designed as a cautionary museum of sorts; its gruesome statues depict violent and torturous scenes that showcase what hell may be like. Over the next few decades, Anderson, who is best known for his work, Imagined Communities, found himself transfixed by this unusual amalgamation of objects, returning several times to see attractions like the largest metal-cast Buddha figure in the world and the Palace of a Hundred Spires. The concrete statuaries and perverse art in Luang Phor’s personal museum of hell included, “side by side, an upright human skeleton in a glass cabinet and a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s gigantic nude David, wearing fashionable red underpants from the top of which poked part of a swollen, un-Florentine penis,” alongside dozens of statues of evildoers being ferociously punished in their afterlife.
In The Fate of Rural Hell, Anderson unravels the intrigue of this strange setting, endeavoring to discover what compels so many Thai visitors to travel to this popular spectacle and what order, if any, inspired its creation. At the same time, he notes in Wat Phai Rong Wua the unexpected effects of the gradual advance of capitalism into the far reaches of rural Asia.
Both a one-of-a-kind travelogue and a penetrating look at the community that sustains it, The Fate of Rural Hell is sure to intrigue and inspire conversation as much as Wat Phai Rong Wua itself.
Through an examination of post-1997 Thai cinema and video art Arnika Fuhrmann shows how vernacular Buddhist tenets, stories, and images combine with sexual politics in figuring current struggles over notions of personhood, sexuality, and collective life. The drama, horror, heritage, and experimental art films she analyzes draw on Buddhist-informed conceptions of impermanence and prominently feature the motif of the female ghost. In these films the characters' eroticization in the spheres of loss and death represents an improvisation on the Buddhist disavowal of attachment and highlights under-recognized female and queer desire and persistence. Her feminist and queer readings reveal the entangled relationships between film, sexuality, Buddhist ideas, and the Thai state's regulation of heteronormative sexuality. Fuhrmann thereby provides insights into the configuration of contemporary Thailand while opening up new possibilities for thinking about queer personhood and femininity.
Following a 1932 coup d’état in Thailand that ended absolute monarchy and established a constitution, the Thai state that emerged has suppressed political dissent through detention, torture, forced reeducation, disappearances, assassinations, and massacres. In Plain Sight shows how these abuses, both hidden and occurring in public view, have become institutionalized through a chronic failure to hold perpetrators accountable. Tyrell Haberkorn’s deeply researched revisionist history of modern Thailand highlights the legal, political, and social mechanisms that have produced such impunity and documents continual and courageous challenges to state domination.
In the Place of Origins tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums. In a world driven by the twin fantasies of pastness and newness, Rosalind C. Morris reveals that spirit mediumship is not simply a theater of atavistic tendency but an arena in which it is possible to read the relationships between new forms of representation and subjectivity, as well as new modes of magic and political power. Through her careful examination of the transformations of spirit mediumship wrought by the mass media, Morris takes readers into the world of the northern Thai past to discover the anticipations of future histories. In this process, she finds new objects for anthropological inquiry, including romantic love and epistolary poetry. She then turns her eye toward the relationships between commodification and prosaic form and photography and the discourses of gendered and national identity. Attending to these issues as they manifest themselves in the practices of mediums, Morris describes both the mundane activities of spirit mediums and the grand ambitions to political authority that are embodied in the increasingly spectacular forms of possession that are becoming so popular with both tourists and local culture brokers. In the Place of Origins traverses this ground with accounts of right-wing militarism and ritual revival during the 70s, and of the democracy movement of 1992, when a global mass media was galvanized by images of military repression and the spectacle of traditional ritual power in cursing. Finally, considering the claims that mediums make to magical power in the face of both AIDS and the Asian economic crisis, Morris reveals the potency of extrajudicial forms of power and violence in the late modern era. This provocative study will interest anthropologists, historians, Asianists, and those involved in gender, performance, media, and literary studies.
During the last two decades, a new form of trade in commercial surrogacy grew across Asia. Starting in India, a “disruptive” model of surrogacy offered mass availability, rapid accessibility, and created new demands for surrogacy services from people who could not afford or access surrogacy elsewhere.
In International Surrogacy as Disruptive Industry in Southeast Asia, Andrea Whittaker traces the development of this industry and its movement across Southeast Asia following a sequence of governmental bans in India, Nepal, Thailand, and Cambodia. Through a case study of the industry in Thailand, the book offers a nuanced and sympathetic examination of the industry from the perspectives of the people involved in it: surrogates, intended parents, and facilitators. The industry offers intended parents the opportunity to form much desired families, but also creates vulnerabilities for all people involved. These vulnerabilities became evident in cases of trafficking, exploitation, and criminality that emerged in southeast Asia, leading to greater scrutiny on the industry as a whole. Yet the trade continues in new flexible hybrid forms, involving the circulation of reproductive gametes, embryos, surrogates, and ova donors across international borders to circumvent regulations. The book demonstrates the need for new forms of regulation to protect those involved in international surrogacy arrangements.
Unlike other multi-ethnic nations, such as Myanmar and India, where official language policy has sparked bloody clashes, Thailand has maintained relative stability despite its eighty languages. In this study of the relations among politics, geography, and language, William A. Smalley shows how Thailand has maintained national unity through an elaborate social and linguistic hierarchy.
Smalley contends that because the people of Thailand perceive their social hierarchy as the normal order, Standard Thai, spoken by members of the higher levels of society, prevails as the uncontested national language. By examining the hierarchy of Thailand's diverse languages and dialects in light of Thai history, education, culture, and religion, Smalley shows how Thailand has been able to keep its many ethnic groups at peace.
Linguistic Diversity and National Unity explores the intricate relationship between language and power and the ways in which social and linguistic rank can be used to perpetuate order.
Mai Ya's Long Journey
Sheila Cohen Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2005 Library of Congress F589.M19H55 2005 | Dewey Decimal 305.4896914092
The story of Mai Ya Xiong and her family and their journey from the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Madison, Wisconsin, is extraordinary. Yet it is typical of the stories of the 200,000 Hmong people who now live in the United States and who struggle to adjust to American society while maintaining their own culture as a free people.
Mai Ya's Long Journey follows Mai Ya Xiong, a young Hmong woman, from her childhood in Thailand's Ban Vinai Refugee Camp to her current home in Wisconsin. Mai Ya's parents fled Laos during the Vietnam War and were refugees in Thailand for several years before reaching the United States. But the story does not end there. Students will read the challenges Mai Ya faces in balancing her Hmong heritage and her adopted American culture as she grows into adulthood.
A brave British widow goes to Siam and—by dint of her principled and indomitable character—inspires that despotic nation to abolish slavery and absolute rule: this appealing legend first took shape after the Civil War when Anna Leonowens came to America from Bangkok and succeeded in becoming a celebrity author and lecturer. Three decades after her death, in the 1940s and 1950s, the story would be transformed into a powerful Western myth by Margaret Landon’s best-selling book Anna and the King of Siam and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I.
But who was Leonowens and why did her story take hold? Although it has been known for some time that she was of Anglo-Indian parentage and that her tales about the Siamese court are unreliable, not until now, with the publication of Masked, has there been a deeply researched account of her extraordinary life. Alfred Habegger, an award-winning biographer, draws on the archives of five continents and recent Thai-language scholarship to disclose the complex person behind the mask and the troubling facts behind the myth. He also ponders the curious fit between Leonowens’s compelling fabrications and the New World’s innocent dreams—in particular the dream that democracy can be spread through quick and easy interventions.
Exploring the full historic complexity of what it once meant to pass as white, Masked pays close attention to Leonowens’s midlevel origins in British India, her education at a Bombay charity school for Eurasian children, her material and social milieu in Australia and Singapore, the stresses she endured in Bangkok as a working widow, the latent melancholy that often afflicted her, the problematic aspects of her self-invention, and the welcome she found in America, where a circle of elite New England abolitionists who knew nothing about Southeast Asia gave her their uncritical support. Her embellished story would again capture America’s imagination as World War II ended and a newly interventionist United States looked toward Asia.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians
Best Regional Special Interest Boosk, selected by the Public Library Reviewers
The 547 Buddhist jatakas, or verse parables, recount the Buddha’s lives in previous incarnations. In his penultimate and most famous incarnation, he appears as the Prince Vessantara, perfecting the virtue of generosity by giving away all his possessions, his wife, and his children to the beggar Jujaka. Taking an anthropological approach to this two-thousand-year-old morality tale, Katherine A. Bowie highlights significant local variations in its interpretations and public performances across three regions of Thailand over 150 years.
The Vessantara Jataka has served both monastic and royal interests, encouraging parents to give their sons to religious orders and intimating that kings are future Buddhas. But, as Bowie shows, characterizations of the beggar Jujaka in various regions and eras have also brought ribald humor and sly antiroyalist themes to the story. Historically, these subversive performances appealed to popular audiences even as they worried the conservative Bangkok court. The monarchy sporadically sought to suppress the comedic recitations. As Thailand has changed from a feudal to a capitalist society, this famous story about giving away possessions is paradoxically being employed to promote tourism and wealth.
In October 1973 a mass movement forced Thailand’s prime minister to step down and leave the country, ending nearly forty years of dictatorship. Three years later, in a brutal reassertion of authoritarian rule, Thai state and para-state forces quashed a demonstration at Thammasat University in Bangkok. In Revolution Interrupted, Tyrell Haberkorn focuses on this period when political activism briefly opened up the possibility for meaningful social change. Tenant farmers and their student allies fomented revolution, she shows, not by picking up guns but by invoking laws—laws that the Thai state ultimately proved unwilling to enforce.
In choosing the law as their tool to fight unjust tenancy practices, farmers and students departed from the tactics of their ancestors and from the insurgent methods of the Communist Party of Thailand. To first imagine and then create a more just future, they drew on their own lived experience and the writings of Thai Marxian radicals of an earlier generation, as well as New Left, socialist, and other progressive thinkers from around the world. Yet their efforts were quickly met with harassment, intimidation, and assassinations of farmer leaders. More than thirty years later, the assassins remain unnamed.
Drawing on hundreds of newspaper articles, cremation volumes, activist and state documents, and oral histories, Haberkorn reveals the ways in which the established order was undone and then reconsolidated. Examining this turbulent period through a new optic—interrupted revolution—she shows how the still unnameable violence continues to constrict political opportunity and to silence dissent in present-day Thailand.
In developed nations around the world, residential schools for deaf students are giving way to the trend of inclusion in regular classrooms. Nonetheless, deaf education continues to lag as the students struggle to communicate. In the Bua School in Thailand, however, 400 residential deaf students ranging in age from 6 to 19 have met with great success in teaching each other Thai Sign Language (TSL) and a world of knowledge once thought to be lost to them. The Rising of Lotus Flowers: Self-Education by Deaf Children in Thai Boarding Schools reveals how their institutionalization allowed them to foster a unique incubator of communication and education.
Charles B. Reilly, a teacher of deaf students in Thailand for eight years, collaborated with Nipapon Reilly, a Deaf Thai citizen, to study the students in the Bua School for 14 years, with periodic follow-ups to the present date. They found that the students learned little from their formal instructors, but that they were able to educate each other in time spent away from the classroom. Students who had learned TSL from their deaf parents successfully passed it on to six-year-olds who had virtually no language at all. The Reillys’ study uncovers an elaborate hierarchy of education among these students, with each group using games and other activities to teach and bring other classmates up to their level. Named for the much admired aquatic plant that blooms in Thailand’s bogs, the Bua School epitomizes the ideal of The Rise of Lotus Flowers, which also offers analytical evidence of the continuing value of residential schools in deaf education.
Thanks to its active role in national politics, the market economy, and popular culture, the Thai crown remains both the country's dominant institution and one of the world's wealthiest monarchies. Puangchon Unchanam examines the reign of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX (1946–2016) and how the crown thrived by transforming itself into a distinctly "bourgeois" monarchy that co-opted middle-class values of hard work, frugality, and self-sufficiency.
The kingdom positioned itself to connect business elites, patronize local industries, and form strategic partnerships with global corporations. Instead of restraining or regulating royal power, white-collar workers joined with the crown to form a dynamic, symbiotic force that has left the lower classes to struggle in their wake. Unchanam presents a surprising case study that kings and queens live long and large in cooperation with the bourgeoisie's interests and ideology.
What happens when three hundred alleged squatters go head-to-head with an enormous city government looking to develop the place where they live? As anthropologist Michael Herzfeld shows in this book, the answer can be surprising. He tells the story of Pom Mahakan, a tiny enclave in the heart of old Bangkok whose residents have resisted authorities’ demands to vacate their homes for a quarter of a century. It’s a story of community versus government, of old versus new, and of political will versus the law.
Herzfeld argues that even though the residents of Pom Mahakan have lost every legal battle the city government has dragged them into, they have won every public relations contest, highlighting their struggle as one against bureaucrats who do not respect the age-old values of Thai/Siamese social and cultural order. Such values include compassion for the poor and an understanding of urban space as deeply embedded in social and ritual relations. In a gripping account of their standoff, Herzfeld—who simultaneously argues for the importance of activism in scholarship—traces the agile political tactics and styles of the community’s leadership, using their struggle to illuminate the larger difficulties, tensions, and unresolved debates that continue to roil Thai society to this day.
Sounding the Center is an in-depth look at the power behind classical music and dance in Bangkok, the capital and sacred center of Buddhist Thailand. Focusing on the ritual honoring teachers of music and dance, Deborah Wong reveals a complex network of connections among kings, teachers, knowledge, and performance that underlies the classical court arts.
Drawing on her extensive fieldwork, Wong lays out the ritual in detail: the way it is enacted, the foods and objects involved, and the people who perform it, emphasizing the way the performers themselves discuss and construct aspects of the ceremony.
Most research on female labor migration in Thailand focuses on that country's infamous sex industry. Mary Beth Mills offers the first extended ethnographic analysis of rural women's movement into less visible occupations, paying particular attention to the hundreds of thousands of young women who fill the factories and sweatshops of the Bangkok metropolis. Mills follows the women as they travel from the village of Baan Naa Sakae to Bangkok, where they encounter new forms of consumption, new "modern" lifestyles, and a new sense of identity. She finds this rural-urban migration is more than a simple economic activity, but rather an elaborate process of cultural change.
Mills describes the environments from which these women left, as well as the urban landscape they now call home. Hence, she examines key aspects of rural Thai community life, such as local consumption practices, gender roles, and the familial tensions that are often the catalyst to labor migration. Then she focuses on the city and the underlying tensions of urban employment as migrants pursue newly imagined identities as modern women, while still upholding economic and moral responsibilities to rural kin.
Tourist brochures and travel guides depict Thailand as an exotic country with a rich cultural heritage, strong religious traditions, and a popular monarchy. Historians also contribute to Thailand’s international allure with chronicles of its unique historical and cultural continuity in comparison to the other southeast Asian countries, whose histories are stained by colonialism and nationalist struggles for independence.
Thailand challenges these stereotypes with a reinterpretation as well as an introduction to the emergence of Thailand as a nation-state. The book argues that the development of Thai nationhood was a long-term process shaped by interactions with the outside world, its pursuit of civilization, and, more recently, globalization. Maurizio Peleggi’s original account investigates, among other issues, the evolution of the geographical and linguistic landscapes, changes in class and gender relations, the role of institutions and ideologies, modern cultural expressions, social memory, and the conception of the Thai national self as contrasted against the racial and cultural Others of Burmese, Chinese and Westerners.
Thailandis a concise and compelling introduction to the complexities that lie behind Thailand’s exotic facade.
When a populist movement elected Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister of Thailand in 2001, many of the country’s urban elite dismissed the outcome as just another symptom of rural corruption, a traditional patronage system dominated by local strongmen pressuring their neighbors through political bullying and vote-buying. In Thailand’s Political Peasants, however, Andrew Walker argues that the emergence of an entirely new socioeconomic dynamic has dramatically changed the relations of Thai peasants with the state, making them a political force to be reckoned with. Whereas their ancestors focused on subsistence, this generation of middle-income peasants seeks productive relationships with sources of state power, produces cash crops, and derives additional income through non-agricultural work. In the increasingly decentralized, disaggregated country, rural villagers and farmers have themselves become entrepreneurs and agents of the state at the local level, while the state has changed from an extractor of taxes to a supplier of subsidies and a patron of development projects. Thailand’s Political Peasants provides an original, provocative analysis that encourages an ethnographic rethinking of rural politics in rapidly developing countries. Drawing on six years of fieldwork in Ban Tiam, a rural village in northern Thailand, Walker shows how analyses of peasant politics that focus primarily on rebellion, resistance, and evasion are becoming less useful for understanding emergent forms of political society.
Extreme inequalities in income,wealth and power lie behind Thailand’s political turmoil. What are the sources of this inequality? Why does it persist, or even increase when the economy grows? How can it be addressed?
The contributors to this important study—Thai scholars, reformers and civil servants—shed light on the many dimensions of inequality in Thailand, looking beyond simple income measures to consider land ownership, education, finance, business structures and politics. The contributors propose a series of reforms in taxation, spending and institutional reform that can address growing inequality.
Inequality is among the biggest threats to social stability in Southeast Asia, and this close study of a key Southeast Asian country will be relevant to regional policy-makers, economists and business decision-makers, as well as students of oligarchy and inequality more generally.
Glimpses of village life during a tumultuous period of Thai history
Set in northern Thailand during the mid-1970s, the stories in this collection capture a period of dramatic social and economic change. Amidst a setting of marketplaces and paddyfields, lemon trees and leaf-roofed houses, these vignettes offer revealing insights into the daily lives of ordinary villagers and hillspeople struggling to survive.