1) Literature in Gold : The Significance of the Use of the Rama Story on Thai Lacquerware Scripture Cabinets / Frederick B Goss
2) The Dynamic Creation of Thai Classical Music Sacred Objects in Contemporary Thai Society / Iyared Boonyarit
3) Supplication and Synergy : Lessons from a Case Study of Doi Kham's Miracle / Joseph Rotheray
4) Royal Brother, Ethnic Other : Politicizing Ethnonyms in the Chronicle Compositions of Early Bangkok / Matthew Reeder
5) Gender Roles and Female Sexuality in the Thai Teen TV Drama Hormones, The Series / Rosalia Namsai Engchuan
6) The Impact of Foreign Settlers on Phuket Society : A Focus on the Education Change / Sudrudee Bamrung
7) Camadevi Worship : Legend Reproduction and Social Space Construction / Warisara Anantaro
8) Money for Nothing : Commercial Surrogacy Cases in Thailand / Li Yuqing
Literature in Gold : The Significance of the Use of the Rama Story on Thai Lacquerware Scripture Cabinets
Frederick B Goss
The Rama story, known as the Ramayana in India, its place of origin, and Ramakien in a Thai context, is a literary work that has had a deep and complex association with Thai identified societies for centuries. The Rama narrative has been widely represented in Thai culture in the form of literature, performance and visual depiction. Through a study of the Rama story as used on black and gold lacquerware cabinets designed to hold the sacred Buddhist scriptures, one of the many forms of depiction in a Thai context of this narrative, this study found that the Rama story appears to have been used in a symbolic manner on the lacquerware cabinets to create the presence of Rama (Phra Ram). This is in order to convey the message of Rama acting, either in association or conjunction with the king, as the protector and guardian of Buddhism. Along with this symbolic meaning, one could also read a didactic message in the depictions of the Thai Rama story, that being to convey a lesson of the triumph of good / truth over evil / ignorance.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 1-25)
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This research studies the dynamic creation of “Thai classical music sacred objects” in the context of contemporary Thai society. Traditionally, Thai musicians perceived certain masks of “teachers” as sacred objects, e.g., masks of Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma Wissunukam, Panja Singkhon, Prakhonthap, or the masks of Rishi Nart and Yaksa Phra Phirap. These are sacred figures in Brahmanism, Hinduism and Buddhism. 1970 was the first time that the Prapiren Temple in Bangkok made sacred coins with the figure of Rishi Nart, which was the beginning of the dynamic creation of a sacred image in the form of a “sacred object.” The Rishi Nart coin was created with a similar concept of votive tablets or amulets.
It is noteworthy that nowadays the society outside of Thai musical culture has created new sacred objects by applying traditional music sacred figures to have new meaning in order to serve the needs of contemporary Thai people, for example, by naming a sacred object “taphon riak sap” meaning “taphon attracting wealth” or “prakhontap rak khad jai” meaning “prakhontap attracting absolute love”. Given the dynamic creation of Thai classical music sacred objects, the researcher is then interested in collecting and studying the forms and content, as well as classifying the newly created Thai classical music sacred objects in present society, and analyzing the phenomena. The appearance, production and purposes of the Thai classical music sacred objects will be analyzed in relation to the context of contemporary Thai society.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 27-50)
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With reference to a case study of Wat Doi Kham in Chiang Mai, this article discusses the Thai practice of supplication – the propitiation of images or deities for material assistance in exchange for pledged offerings. Despite its ubiquity in Thai religious practice, supplication has never been isolated as the specific focus of English language scholarship. This article gives a general explanation of the practice with reference to some examples from popular Thai-language manuals. In reference to Doi Kham, a popular and deftly managed site of supplication, this article also introduces “synergy” as a concept for understanding the compositional logic of Thai shrines and images, and the ontological framework for their efficacy as loci for supplication. The ethnographic data revealed that whilst synergy is applicable as an organizing principle at these loci, it remains irrelevant to the majority of visitors. Consequently, the author suggests that the overlaps between supplication and Thai domestic tourism should be further explored.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 51-63)
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This article examines a late eighteenth-century innovation in the composition and revision of dynastic chronicles in the Thai language. In chronicles and chronicle passages composed at this time, internally-diverse political networks – the subjects or armies of one monarch or another – are regularly identified as single ethnic groups as never before. This transition is traced through three periods of chronicle (re)writing. Compositions from the Ayutthaya period (1351-1767) focus overwhelmingly on the actions of specific individuals. The diverse population, army, and nobility of a kingdom are not endowed with a single ethnopolitical identification, and are not allowed important roles in the narratives as corporate entities. In extant chronicle texts from this period, the ethnic term “Thai” does not appear at all. In chronicle narratives of the late eighteenth century, however, we can see the tentative introduction of the ethnic term “Thai” as one of the two communities supporting King Taksin (r. 1767-1782) along with “Chinese”, and a dramatic trend towards the ethno-political identification of the armies from the Irrawaddy valley kingdoms as “Burmese”. Finally, beginning in the last decade or so of the eighteenth century, the diverse peoples and armies of Bangkok were glossed frequently as “Thai”, and even the peoples of Bangkok’s tributary kingdoms were assigned ethno-political identities that distinguished them socially and politically from the “Thai” in Bangkok. In late eighteenth and nineteenth century chronicle compositions, the politicization of ethnonyms facilitated the narration of a chronic history of aggression and deceit not just between certain newly-ethnicized kingdoms, but also between their newly distinguishable sets of officials and subjects. Early twentieth-century historians, in turn, drew from these ethnicized royal chronicle narratives to craft a nation-centered history for modern Thailand. Indeed, the political circumstances that motivated lateeighteenth century chroniclers to promote loyalty to the crown through the repetition of ethnicized us-versus-them narratives of history remain powerful even today.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 65-99)
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Rosalia Namsai Engchuan
Teenage sexual activity and the negative consequences of unsafe sex have received public attention in Thailand. Most research to date conceptualizes premarital sexual activities as risky behavior and reflects a hegemonic discourse that disapproves of the sexual activity of teenage girls. Despite the large body of research on sexual behavior of Thai teenagers, little is known about the ways in which teenagers engage in what is conceptualized as risky behavior. Therefore, the author sees the need to research the topic from the teenager’s perspective. Hormones, The Series is acclaimed as a TV series that explicitly portrays teenage life as lived by Thai youth today and includes counter-hegemonic representations of sexually active youth. This research project aims at analyzing the series through the lens of youth as a cultural construct, with a focus on intersections with Thai social constructs of gender roles and feminine sexuality. Textual analysis is employed to analyze the depiction of the main female protagonists. The author comes to the conclusion that seemingly counterhegemonic representations of sexually active teenage girls in Hormones, The Series still favor moralizing messages about feminity and teenage sex. The representations of female adolescents in the series can be conceptualized as part of a cultural discourse on adolescence that carries larger societal implications. The research discusses the implications of a hegemonic discourse of sexual innocence imposed on teenage girls in a social reality where a large proportion of the teenage population is engaged in an activity that is labeled as deviant.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 101-120)
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This study aims to examine the influence of the foreign settlers on the education sector in Phuket and also to analyze the significant changes and consequences in the education sector caused by foreign settlers who have resided in Phuket in two key periods – the mining era in the 19th century and the tourism industry period in the last decade. The significant changes in the education sector of Phuket show that a large number of foreign settlers residing on the island have generated an interesting impact starting from the tin mining industry period throughout the tourism industry period. The establishment of Chinese schools during the tin mining industry period was the means not only to provide education for Chinese children, but also to maintain Chinese traditions and culture. In the era of tourism industry, Western settlers have influenced the society of Phuket to become more internationalized through an increasing number of international schools. The opportunity to acquire bi-lingual language ability tends to increase status and standards for parents and their children. Internationalization has become one of the major characteristics of Phuket via the education sector.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 121-139)
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Recently in Thailand, the story of Queen Camadevi has been revived and remembered in several provinces. Queen Camadevi, who is a legendary heroine, ruled the Haripunjaya Kingdom during the 7th-8th centuries, and some provinces regularly observe “Camadevi worship” ceremony today. Historically, Thai people have recognized Queen Camadevi as the Queen of Haripunjaya, an ancient kingdom situated in Lamphun province in northern Thailand. Interestingly, only a few years ago, there has been a phenomenon of several other provinces also beginning to hold “Camadevi Worship” ceremonies, namely Chiang Mai, Phrae, Nan and even Lopburi in central Thailand. The local people living in these provinces explain that their province also has a unique relationship with the queen and are mentioned in the Camadevi Chronicle, particularly regarding Queen Camadevi’s journey from Lopburi to rule the Haripunjaya Kingdom in Lamphun.
This research aims to study the reproduction of the Camadevi legend to construct “Camadevi Worship” ceremonies in the context of contemporary Thai society. It will analyze the thinking process underlying the construction of the ceremonies, as well as how social space is created through the “Camadevi Worship” ceremony. Primary research findings reveal that the construction of a “Camadevi Worship” Ceremony in each province has undergone a similar thinking process – that is, by selecting a certain part of the Camadevi Chronicle that mentions the names of the communities visited by Queen Camadevi along the journey to the Haripunjaya Kingdom. A “Camadevi Worship” ceremony is then considered as a means to create “social space” for each mentioned community, thus making the space become more sacred and more socially important. This also has made the people well aware of their shared memory relating to Queen Camadevi. In addition, the “Camadevi Worship” ceremony has helped create a sense of pride for the people as being “descendants” of an old community with a strong identity with Queen Camadevi, a legendary heroic leader.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 141-164)
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Commercial surrogacy, or “wombs for rent”, used to be a growing business in Thailand. However, in July 2015, Thailand enacted a new law prohibiting the practice. Adopting textual analysis, this article explores two landmark cases that have changed Thailand surrogacy legislation and explores the reason why surrogates have had difficulties in relinquishing babies. Although the contention that surrogacy causes a sense of exploitation is not a new opinion, this article tries to find where the sense of exploitation comes from specifically. At the structural level, the contractual relationship among three parties – commissioners, the surrogates and the intermediary agency – creates a sense of exploitation by information asymmetry; at the micro-interaction level, intermediary staff and the commissioners show social indifference towards surrogates by their language and behavior, affecting the final decision of surrogates on relinquishment; at the cultural level, the surrogates feel a moral anxiety when traditional Asian family ethics disapproves of surrogacy and the surrogate can hardly find legitimacy from the paper contract. The tension between Western contractual spirit and Thailand’s traditional family ethics arises driving the surrogates to break the original commercial contract. “Emotional bodies” and “civilizing bodies” theories help to understand the origins of the sense of exploitation, the cultural meanings of bodies, and also shed light on policy-making of surrogacy.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 10/2017 (Number 2), Page 165-184)
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