UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Uniting Thailand : cultural production and national unity van der Est, Leonard Lawrence


The main aim of this thesis is to analyze how the Thai government and monarchy have attempted to unify the different ethnic groups within the national territory into a single national culture. In particular, I analyze how history in Thailand has been produced through contemporary moral values to create a collective memory that can unify the nation around the image of the King. I discuss how this produced history and collective memory are disseminated through the Thai popular culture and manifested in images of the monarchy, thereby producing a Thai social imaginary. I then question whether this process has actually unified the nation or created the appearance of unity through directed national behaviours and through the fear of being accused of not being Thai. The foundation of this work is based in the eight months I spent living and working in Bangkok from July 2005 to March 2006 where I engaged in daily participant observation and basic observation. In January 2008 I went back to Bangkok for two weeks to attend a conference and conduct further fieldwork. On that trip, I met with a number of academics and specialists in the area I am interested in and conducted open-ended, semi-structured interviews with them. I complemented my interviews with participant observation conducted in different public spaces in Bangkok and with historical, political and ethnographic accounts from relevant academic literature and popular culture sources.

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