Panel 10 - Protests, Social Movements, and Gender

Sunday, Nov. 15, 09:10 - 10:25 (US CST)
Sunday, Nov. 15, 22:10 - 23:25 Thailand

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Poowadon Chai-in

Chulalongkorn University

Phuriphat Kruanopparatana

The Office of Innovation for Democracy, King Prajadhipok's Institute

Alternating Thai Political Model: Unconventional [Flash] Mobs in Thailand After COVID-19 Pandemic.

After the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Thailand, there were a lot of unconventional gatherings by students that urge to stand against the government, formed after the 2019 general election. This article aims to show that the students have created innovative unconventional protest activities. Those activities were designed with different problems, stemmed by the dictatorship administration, that the protesters have experienced. Without leaders, the students work together as a union to organize the assembly by only having the home party to hold it and inviting the speakers with no significant heroic figure. As we see that Thai history lies on a few heroic figures as a moral leader such as the monarchs. The history fetches the conventional Thai political thoughts which constitute the structure of Thai political culture, the origin of Thai leader ideas: ‘Phrayā chạkraphatdi rāch’ (The Great Emperor) and the concept of “duty” that The King has to protect the people, then the people must pay tax in return. So, this article points out that the political movement along Thai history is the war on thought where the results of the previous political movements were always defeated since the protests were against “individual” and the objectives were too narrow. The discussion will bring back to the gatherings after COVID-19 to look at the scattered current of thoughts in various mob themes that could lead to different outcomes of calling from the uprising since 1973 onwards.

Matthew Werstler

Northern Illinois University

A Sustainable Forward with The Musical Legacy of Jit Phumisak

Jit Phumisak was a Thai scholar and composer popular in the 1960s who’s work later inspired major political movements. His influence on Thai culture contributed to the “Songs for Life” (เพลงเพื่อชีวิต) genre of Thai popular music after his death in 1966. Songs for Life features a mix of traditional Thai and Western musical elements and was known for having lyrics that voiced the concerns of working-class Thai citizens. The prominence of this genre in modern Thai music history provides a valuable site for examining different aspects of protest music.

In particular, I draw attention to how protest songs contribute to both sustainability and resiliency inside disenfranchised communities, not only through keeping a common set of cultural practices but also though providing a cognitive space to voice social concerns. Jeff Todd Titon’s assertion that resilience “refers to the ability of a system to move back toward its previous state in the face of disturbance” (2016: 494) is relevant to this process, since songs used to protest frequently provide a familiar venue through which dissenters can voice their concerns. In this paper, I observe that songs and performance spaces have become a place for Thai musicians to find a physical and cognitive location to preserve traditional Thai music and to express inequality in daily life. Using Jit Phumisak’s societal contributions and Songs for Life as a case study, I explore how the concepts of resiliency and sustainability speak regarding the lives of musicians and the art forms they are presenting.

Nattapol Wisuttipat

UC – Riverside
Subdued Musicking Bodies: Historicizing and Theorizing Thai Classical Gay Musicians

Thai classical music is a gendered tradition. The assigned roles between men and women musicians is both well recognized and contrasting. Such asymmetrical and heteronormative gender dynamics tend to naturalize heterosexuality and leaves little room for those who do not conform to these constructs. Nonetheless, queer musicians comprise a great proportion of the practitioners, but their presence in Thai classical music is subdued and even stigmatized. They are consequentially marginalized within the tradition. Where are the queer Thai classical musicians? How do they identify themselves and the music they make as distinct from straight musicians? At the same time, how do they navigate themselves and their musical performances between the normalized gender binary? Most important, how and why is their presence subdued? My presentation attempts to shed some light into the musical life of queer Thai classical musicians by paying specific attention to gay musicians. I trace how their perceived status changes over time, especially in khrueang sai ensemble. I also use the ethnographic method to unpack the meanings behind their musical performances and social life. In doing so, I decenter the heteronormative discourses to include queer musicians and their performances. I argue that queer musicians have been musically, socially, and historically active agents of Thai classical music. I also argue that the constructed gender binary in modern Thai culture, which overlooks the interwovenness of gender and sexuality, delegitimizes queer musicians. By denaturalizing and historicizing heteronormativity, I critically examine Thai classical music scholarship from ethnomusicological perspectives.

Nalin Sindhuprama

UC – Berkeley

#AnimeFlashMob : The Unborn Mob from Twitter and the Process of Young Thai “Twittians” Becoming Concerned Citizens

While the freedom of speech in Thailand has been very limited under the Junta government, Twitter has become a more active space for Thai people to express their dissatisfaction against the present regime. The virtual expression eventually leads to physical protests in 2020. In order to understand Twitter as a part of the young Thai generation movement calling for democracy, the paper is exploring Twitter, not just as a platform to voice one's opinion or to spread the news in order to help organizing the protest, but also space where the process of socialization takes place and the political opinions of the users are shaped. Several Twitter features, especially the hashtag and trending features, enable Twitter to become a virtual gathering place and public floor for exchanging information. Twitter can be a very contestatory space, and the users criticize not only the government but also each other. These characteristics contribute to how the protestors organize the physical mobs or even how they agreed not to organize a mob. By observing #AnimeFlashMob, a hashtag emerging shortly after the Hamtaro flash mob's success, I witnessed that Twitter users were challenged by different values and beliefs through engaging in various controversial issues before they came to an agreement not to launch the mob. The main concerns on the issues of social privilege and the mob's inclusivity suggest their expectation of becoming concerned citizens who are sensitive to social issues beyond themselves.

Related Pre-Recorded Presentations

Jitraporn Somyanontanakul

Mahasarakham University

The youth activists in the 2020 Flash Mobs in Thailand: profiles and patterns of protest activisms

In January and February 2020, Thailand experienced the surge of flash mobs organized by university students. These young people mobilized their supports through social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. This mobilizing tool is not new in social movement studies as it is used not only in Thailand but also in other parts of the world as such in Sudan or Hong Kong. However, the ability to hold public gatherings successfully lies in ‘who’ implement the tools. In the 2020 flash mobs, we witnessed many young activists planned, engaged, and participated in the rallies. Yet we do not exactly know who they are and why they decide to engage in the political demonstrations. This paper is an attempt to answer the aforementioned questions. It will be applied qualitative methodology to investigate the incidents. The methods are online interviews, documentary research and qualitative content analysis. The research finding will offer the young activists’ profiles and patterns of protests derived from their activism.

Suntisuk Prabunya

Chulalongkorn University

"His Wounds, My Wounds": Melancholic Community and Queer Intimate Public in Gaysorn Prasobkarn Magazine

This research aims to investigate the cultural archive of queer past experiences in Thailand. Taking as its object of analysis the commercial gay magazine Gaysorn Prasobkarn, widely circulated through the eighties yet long overlooked by literary scholars, I examine selected literary works, letters, editorials, and opinion pieces published in its archive of eleven issues. I argue that they present a pattern that allows me to detect what Raymond Williams called a “structure of feeling” of the queer community contemporaneous with the circulation of the magazine. Within this structure of feeling, negative emotions or affects of melancholia predominated. Drawing on thinkers theorizing about emotions/affects, I propose that these pieces of writing offer insights into how social stigmatization of male homosexuality and social rejection of homosexual desire produces everyday feelings of melancholia. Furthermore, I propose that Gaysorn Prasobkarn paradoxically helped gay men construct an imaginary space similar to what Lauren Berlant calls the “intimate public” in which a sense of belonging is forged by shared wounds and it is within this space that queer people tactically exercise their agency and imagine their alternative, utopian future.


Kanjana Thepboriruk, Ph.D., (กัญจนา เทพบริรักษ์)
Chair, NIU Thai Studies Committee

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