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State masculinities in Siam, 1910-1925 Scalena, Adam Nicholas

Abstract

This essay examines the crucial role of certain types of gender constructions in the nationalist project. The Siamese state had to reform in the late nineteenth century if it was to survive in an Asia dominated by European imperial powers. The Chakri dynasty created a salaried bureaucracy both for its civilian and military functions, and perhaps more importantly, strictly separated the two functions in the process. This bureaucracy created new problems for the dynasty. How could it ensure loyalty to a hereditary monarch when his position was becoming increasingly superfluous? How could the monarchy maintain its centrality within the state? King Vajiravudh responded to the new challenge by resorting to a gendered strategy; through creating the paramilitary organization, The Wild Tigers Corps, he built up a solidarity among the men staffing this single-sex institution. The king cultivated a warrior ethos among the bureaucrats and positioned himself as the chief warrior. Additionally, through his didactic writings, he encouraged his ‘wild tigers’ to reform their domestic life so that they could serve the state more effectively. Government officials were told to stick to monogamous relationships and be content with a humble Thai wife who could provide a nurturing home life. This analysis of King Vajiravudh’s initiatives demonstrates that changing conceptions of masculinities were intimately linked to the formation of the Siamese nation-state.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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