Insecure Thai-ness: Contradictions within a mode of dependency


Event details

PSC Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 26 March 2019


PSC Reading Room 4.27, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Sirichinda Thongchinda


Maxine McArthur

My starting point for this presentation is to question how a particular ethic, or set of ethics, decides and dominates the way Thai people live together. Building on the work of Judith Butler, my intention is to elaborate the way a sense of Thai-ness, promoted by Thai political elites as a form of hierarchy, works as an ethical obligation. This form of ethical relation creates a mode of boundedness based on dependency.
I will present fieldwork data from 12 months of ethnographic work in a market city built on strong Chinese genealogical links, which invites a new perspective on Thai-ness. Interpreting this data, I will suggest that the condition of dependency underpinning a collective sense of ‘we’ under Thai-ness is sustained through division and exclusion. In my analysis, the dual processes of tying and tearing become apparent, as the creation of crisis requires manufactured images of national harmony.
Thai-ness encapsulates a mode of dependency that establishes the ‘we’ and the ‘other’ as the flip-sides of national harmony. At the same time, the way the individual self is devalued becomes a larger threat created by this mode of boundedness. In order to be eligible for protection within this mode of dependency, Thai people are ethically obligated to support existing hierarchies. This is the insidious dimension to dependency in Thai political life that is grounded on an unequal valuation of life. Therefore, reconsidering this existing mode of dependency governing Thai political life, and its underpinnings, is an essential part of any discussion of democracy and elections. Without doing so, constructing a new society that resolves, rather than entrenches conflict will be impossible.

About the Speaker
Sirichinda Thongchinda is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU.

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