Panel 3 - Cultural Heritage Making and Identity Formation

Friday, Nov. 13, 22:10 - 23:25 (US CST)
Saturday, Nov. 14, 11:10 - 12:25 Thailand

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Suthikarn Meechan

University of Canterbury, NZ
Contestation between Bureaucratic and Electoral Powers: Revisiting Thai Local Politics under the New Regime

Since the Junta overthrew the elected government in 2014, it has reshaped the political landscape, not only for national politics, but also at local levels. This article focuses on the political structure and power mapping of Thai local politics as reshaped by institutional and socio-economic changes under the pro-military government, characterised as a new democratic authoritarian regime. The study argues that the political divide in the post-junta era is not only between pro- and anti-military forces, but also contestation between bureaucratic and electoral powers. Fieldwork conducted in the central northeast region found that the long period of military control and extension of the central mechanisms have led to the fall and alteration of colour-coded movements, particularly the Red Shirts. Moreover, budgetary powers, which are overseen by the Ministry of Interior from provinces to villages, intervene and replace the leading roles of elected local politicians. Furthermore, the authority of local administrative organisations becomes a significant factor by reverting local powers back to governmental bodies, as occurred before the decade of the decentralisation initiative. The context of the pre- and post-2019 general election pointed out the roles of bureaucratic and electoral powers. While bureaucratic forces favour the military government, the electoral system has become a source of local power and had a strong bond with rivals. We seek to explain the conflict and even the cooperation, both within and between two forces, including proposing scenarios for competition in future local elections.

Putthida Kijdumnern

Tohoku University, Japan
Negotiating self-presentations of Siamese in Kelantan inside Thai Theravada Buddhist temple

Siamese is a minority group in Kelantan, where is considered a conservative and political stronghold of Islam. Religion is one of the most important ethnic makers in Malaysia. However, Thai Theravada Buddhism temples (wat) can be found around the state. Temple became a spatial place where Thainess was negotiated with recent modifications from surrounding ethnic groups. This paper aims to examine anthropological factors contributing to the characteristic of interethnic relationship that negotiating with reciprocal connections between Siamese, Chinese, and Malays to maintain the self-representation of Thainess in public. Notably, architectural designs of temples are mainly Chinese art from the massive donation from ethnic Chinese. Village Chinese are also Buddhists and have been active in rituals. Further, The Malays go to temples for alternative health service and charm talismans. Thainess is reinvented with Chinese outer presentation and sightseeing place among other ethnic groups in Malaysia. Consequently, Thai Theravada Buddhist temple is where different ethnic groups can express the optional self-presentation that could not express in the public. Still, Siamese presents Thainess in a name of the owner of the temple. They present cultural identity and behaviors as an active agency that practices rituals, ceremonies, and speaks of local Siamese dialect. Thainess is negotiated due to the historical process and social adaptation of becoming the Malaysian Siamese, yet Siamese temple is keeping a strong link with Thai ecclesiastical organization that provides cultural and religious references to Siamese in Kelantan.

Jasmine An

University of Michigan
“a handful of syllables tossed back across the water:” negotiating diasporic Thai American gender identity through poetic practice

In this paper, I aim to bridge the fields of Thai Studies and Asian American Literary Studies. I argue that Thai American writer Jai Arun Ravine’s experimental poetry collection แล้ว and then entwine (2011) offers a trans of color response to the U.S.’s geopolitical presence in Thailand and this history’s contribution to the friction between Thai and Western paradigms of gender in the diaspora. Ravine uses multimodal and multilingual poetic tactics—such as writing a survival narrative for a trans of color character into the blank spaces of the สูติบัตร or on top of ก ไก่ worksheets—to appropriate state/neocolonial power. I argue that Ravine’s acts of literary deformation co-opt the instructions of state/neocolonial discipline as a tactic of trans of color survival and as a critical response to the reification/Westernization of gender demanded by the authoritarian state. My reading of Ravine’s work foregrounds the intertwined legacy of the U.S.’ presence in Thailand with Thailand’s history of authoritarian rule as Ravine uses an innovative mix of Thai, English and visual poetics to critique the binary limitations of language around gender and racial identity for diasporic Thai subjects. Ultimately, I argue that Ravine’s experimental, Thai American, trans poetics expand the possibilities of theorizing U.S. empire and technologies of gender within Asian American literary studies and demands a poetics of survival for diasporic, Southeast Asian, trans lives.

Sanong Suksaweang

Suranaree University of Technology, Thailand
Siamese/Thai words that derived from the Kui language, not Khmer as previously mistakenly understood

The Kui is one of the oldest indigenous people of Southeast Asia and, of course, Thailand. During the last three years of my Kui writing system development, I have found that many Siamese/Thai words that had been published and claimed as Khmer language are wrong. Most of those words or all should had been correctly derived from the Kui language of Southeast Asia instead. These are examples of the Kui words that used to be mistakenly claimed as such; jor(Kui)/จอ(Siamese/Thai)/jakae(Khmer) = dog, woh’(Kui)/วอก/sawaa = monkey, htonnaa(Kui)/ถนน/plaw = road, cal(Kui)/ขัน/ patal = bowl, eusakdj(Kui)/สาด/ja = throw water, geeng-giang(Kui)/ช้าง/damrei = elephant. Etc. The Kui language is similar in term of tonic usage to the Thai, which it contains 6 levels of tone but remain only 5 levels in Siamese/Thai. However, the Khmer language does not use any tone, to my knowledge. Therefore, it is my duty as a 100% Kui blood person to express this concern and ask all of us to help me spreading the right things before it is too late.

Related Pre-Recorded Presentations for Panel 3

Benjamin Pongtep Cefkin

University of Colorado – Boulder
Regional Identity in Thai Rap/Hip-Hop as a Musical Reflection of Thai Society

Whether through lyrical references to cities and neighborhoods, use of localized slang or regional affiliation, rappers have frequently linked place with identity through their lyrics and music.  For Black and Latino youth socially disadvantaged due to their race, rap cartography provides representation through regional solidarity, while spatial discourses within rap reflect issues of a wider social context.  Though socio-historical conditions for Thai rap/hip-hop artists differ from their American predecessors, the tradition of geographic representation is retained in the works of Thai rappers, instead reflecting a social disparity divided on regional lines and peripheral identity in contrast to centralized Thai authority. 

This paper discusses the ways in which Thai rap/hip-hop artists represent place and identity, in particular through referencing the four-regions trope which partitions Thailand into four distinct cultural regions; the North, the Northeast, the South, and the Central region.  By employing linguistic and musical signifiers, such as dialect and use of folk instruments, Thai rappers contextualize themselves within or without regional boundaries to construct their musical identities.  These identities, in turn, reflect contemporary Thai social narratives of identity.  Through digital ethnography of YouTube reaction videos and comments, I will discuss how the use of regional representation by Thai rappers such as VKL and Milli and the response from Thai audiences provide valuable insight into the politics of Thai regional identity.

Suriya Klangrit

Mahidol University Thailand

Yasothara Siripaprapagon

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Surin

Cultural Identity and Textile Design Prakurm: Cultural Heritage Preservation of Thai Khmer Ethnic Group in Surin Province

The objectives of the study were to study the cultural identity (unique) of Prakurm as a cultural heritage of Thai-Khmer ethnic group in Surin province, analytic for the unique (traditional pattern) and applied those traditional patterns to be newly applied fabric patterns. The Key informants were silversmiths at Chok village, Khawao-Sinarin District, Surin province. The community is well-known as an OTOP village, (One Tambon One Product) and the development phrase was developed by weavers, and fabric pattern designers. The results were found that the cultural identities of Prakurm at Chok village, Khawao-Sinarin District, Surin province, there were 3 cultural identities of traditional patterns consisted of 1) Lotus flower (Klep-Bua) 2) Water bug’ wing and net (Maengda-Rarng-Hae) 3) symbols of three and four geometrics (Jarl).These 3 cultural identities of traditional patterns were designed and developed to be 3 newly applied fabric patterns consisted of 1) the pattern of Lotus  2) the pattern of Maengda-Rarng-Hae 3) the pattern of Jarl.

Kroekwut Kanthiang

Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya

The relationship of culture and tradition on belief of “Phi”’ of Thai-Kui people in Surin province

Culture, tradition, beliefs and rituals in each group of people especially belief in power of spirits, devils and nature have been believed and respected for 1000 years until present. The expression of belief still can be found nowadays even there are modern ways of life with many convention utensils. The belief became to be rituals followed by its procedure, components and pattern. The belief of “Phi” of Thai_Kui people can be divided into 3 aspects included 1) it became from traditional conceptual thinking of ghost 2) the ritual derived from belief are followed by it’s pattern, procedure and components and 3) it is a combination of traditional belief and Brahmanism which spread to this area with spirit’s belief and ritual.  The belief of ghost is expressed by their local language which use to communicate with ghosts or spirits, their respect, worship and believe in power of spirits.  The believe in spirits and relationship between people and spirits became to be identity of Thai-Kui tradition which affected their way of life. The belief of spirits was based on Brahmanism and the fear of supernatural power of people. The important relation of “Phi” in this study is it role related to people in this group. The roles which found in ritual included 1)  marriage in family must be informed to ancestor spirits 2) the spirit retrieving ceremony is practiced to treat people who ill and cannot find its cause by modern medical, the ceremony is aimed to console the illness people’s “Kwan”  and to ask ancestor’s spirit for help 3) the ordination ceremony for family’s member must be informed guardian’s spirits in order to bless all member auspicious and cherish the merit and 4) the annual spirit worship which found in Galmore ritual, the ritual is aimed to worship ancestor’s spirits by inviting them to join ceremony through human medium. This ritual is practiced annually and provided spirits dancing and offerings.


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

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