(Re)assembling the Moments of Thai-European Encounters in History
Time & LocationSession 10
Fri 11:00–12:30 Room 1.403
- Karin Zackari Lund University
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- Forested Encounters: British Foresters, Siamese Bureaucracy, and the Formation of Forestry as an Expertise Tinakrit Sireerat Cornell University
Historians of forestry in Thailand have emphasized the significance of Thai-European encounters in the production of forest knowledges during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On the other hand, several works also highlight the correlation between the rise of forestry and the attempt of Thailand to increase its political power into its relatively autonomous vassal state of Lanna, which forms the northern region of Thailand today. Yet, previous scholarship has inadequately paid attention to how the knowledge was being produced, and thereby mistakenly assuming forestry to be a universal knowledge readily transferrable from Europe to other places. This narrative of knowledge transfer, however, fails to consider the interaction between forest knowledge and bureaucratic structure and obscures other dynamics of knowledge production, especially the coproduction of forest knowledges and the Thai nation.
Drawing upon analytical tools from Science and Technology Studies (STS), I aim to foreground the power dynamics that conditioned the ways forestry was formed as an expertise and an administrative structure in Thailand. Rather than a transfer, I argue that the process was actually an invention, and despite the name “forestry,” it was a different form of expertise catered to the needs of diverse actors who advocated for different forms of forest knowledges and practices. As the production of forest knowledges was simultaneous with the production of the Thai nation, I will show that the very contentious nature of forest knowledges continued to shape and reshape Thailand’s administrative structure, and the ways in which the Thai nation positioned itself vis-à-vis the Lanna Kingdom, European powers, and the forests.
- Travel Cinemas and the Assemblage of Europe’s Romance in Thailand Pasoot Lasuka Chiang Mai University
“Europe” has always been an important geocultural space in Thai film culture. The space has often been used to create a distinct film narrative which projects the romantic moments and experiences of the Thai lover characters. However, these romantic moments in Thai travel films often occur in either similar places or situations. In this paper, I examine how travel films and other moving-image medias came together over the course of the production history to visually form “Europe’s romantic aesthetic”. Locating these films and moving-image medias in the context of the country’s expanding economy after World War II, I also look at how this romantic aesthetic of Europe created by the film and moving-image cultures could have shaped modern tourism in Thailand, especially how Thai people conceive the values of the places and events in European countries.
- Works of Ong-ard Satrabhandhu and Le Corbusier: Evidence of Crypto-Colonialism in Thailand Supasai Vongkulbhisal University of Washington
Direct assimilation of Modern European architecture has emerged in Thailand since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Even though Thailand was never formally colonized by any of the Western countries, “Thai identities” or “Thai-ness” has still inevitably encountered and absorbed multiple fractured cultural and racial identities from the Western nations. One example of these is the formation of high Modern architecture associated with the Imperialist countries, which inform the concept of siwilai, a distinctive Thai conception of civilization formulated by Siamese aristocrats who received education abroad. Thus, parts of Thai architectural products cultivated from the nineteenth century onwards can be asserted as an outcome of “Semi- Colonialism” or “Crypto-Colonialism.” This proposal argues that Thai architectural identity is comprised of two major components: one is an identity directly claimed from its independence and the other is an identity indirectly claimed from an intrusive colonial power developed in Thailand. These visible cultural transmissions are found in the works of a Thai architect, Ongard Satrabhandhu, in his practices particularly from the 1960s to the 1990s. Guaranteed by his promoted position as a Thai national artist in a field of contemporary architecture, Satrabhandhu’s works not only allowed Modernism to enter into the Thai architectural tradition but also highlighted the differences in the constant exchanges and the re-definition of originality and assimilation placed on Thai architectural identity. By examining the transculturation of Western ideology in Thai architectural context via an architectonic comparison between the works of Ongard Satrabhandhu and the works of Le Corbusier, a French-Swiss architect who Satrabhandhu draws from; this proposal reveals a new colonial dimension in investigating colonialism through the formation of Neo-traditional Siamese architectural style in Thailand during the twentieth century.
The Thai-European encounters have been viewed as historical events subjected to certain discourses. The encounters themselves have been considered under discursive practices conditioned by human agencies. While this approach may have helped clear-up the confusion on the “ambiguous” appearance of the modern Thai self, it has not explained much the material aspects of the moments of encounters. When the Thai agents encounter Europe, what kind of social order and relation is re-created, and how does this newly created social order and relation affect the state of being of the Thai agent? The papers presented in this panel propose to re-evaluate the conceptual status of the Thai-European encounters in history by examining the historical events from the ontological point of view focusing on the material relations and organisations. The papers draw on differing accounts starting at the beginning of the 20th century, when Siamese authorities and Intelligentsias travelled to Europe with the explicit goal of establishing state relations, and receiving western educations, to the Cold War era when a group of new Thai middle class came to Europe as students and as political exiles, and to the more contemporary religious encounters and the globally migrating working class. Through these various historical moments and various contexts of Thai-European encounters, the panel hopes to create a new critical lens that can be used to understand the cultural encounters in the broader area of Southeast Asian studies.