Identities, Cultural Practices and the Changing Political Landscape of Modern Southeast Asia

Title: 1134 | Identities, Cultural Practices and the Changing Political Landscape of Modern Southeast Asia
Area: Southeast Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Wirawan Naruepiti, Thammasat University, Thailand (organizer, presenter)
Lalita Hanwong, Kasetsart University, Thailand (presenter, chair)
Poonnatree Jiaviriyaboonya, Nakhon Phanom University, Thailand (presenter)
Chulalak Pleumpanya, Harvard-Yenching Institute, United States (presenter)
Chanan Yodhong, Thammasat University, Thailand (presenter)
Sittithep Eaksittipong, Chiang Mai University, Thailand (discussant)


This panel consists of young and mid-career scholars engaging with cultural politics and political ideologies that emerged from rapidly changing politics in Southeast-Asia, late 19 and 20 centuries, in response to modernism and so-called 'identity threats'.

Hanwong discusses how Burmese elites reconciled Buddhism and Marxism ideologies and created their own religious and political prospects in an effort to eliminate colonial past and tackle Communism. Naruepiti studies a Siamese Prince who attended the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago in 1893. He showed the non-stagnant religious characteristic due to his close association with the trans-regional movement. Modernism also played a pivotal role around the world.

Yodhong focuses on Thai prominent politicians' wives in the 1930s and beyond gives us reflections of women in revolutionary politics in the decade. We also focus on cultural practices during the turbulent political environment in Southeast-Asia. Pluempanya’s exploration of overseas-Chinese journalism in Malaya and Siam gives us pictures of its emergence from wealthy groups that set them apart from that of mainland-Chinese and local people in the respective countries. She shows that the colonial experienced that they went on to inspire a revolution in mainland-China.

Knowledge transference and locals adjustability to modern Cambodia can also be seen in Jiaviriyaboonya’s study of the modern-day fortune-telling practice which was briefly extinguished during the Khmer Rouge. After the nightmare ended, they turned to Thai numerological books to supplement the diminished body of traditional knowledge.

In summary, the panel attempts to draw a coherent picture of how Southeast-Asian responds to modernity by creating a new set of identity and cultural practices.

Panel Abstracts:
H.R.H. Prince Chandradat Chudhadharn: A Presenter of Siamese Buddhism on World Stage, 1893
This paper studies the representation of Siamese Buddhist Theravada Buddhism on the world stage, in the late 19th century. Siamese court sent Prince Chandradat Chudhadharn to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, USA, 1893. The program was one panel in World Expo held in the same year. The World Parliament of Religions in Chicago was held after the end of Napoleonic war (1803-1815). All panels were filled by intellectual religious heads, whose sharing progressive opinions. They called out moral crises that had been made in European colonies, such as war and famine. The presenters were Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Hindus, Confucius, etc. They presented their prophet as Heroes, coming to save the world from failing moral conduct. This study shows the Siamese procedure of religious development in the late 19th century. Siamese is part of the colonial economic world orders that had to play a crucial role working closely with the Pali Text Society. Society was being an important institution, which reproducing Buddhist texts. Siam as the Buddhist Kingdom was survived from being colonized, must present itself as a moderated and re-branded Buddhist to the world's parliament of religions.

From Buddhist-Marxism to Socialist Democracy: The Shaping of Myanmar's Political Ideologies during the Cold War
After gaining independence in early 1948, Myanmar’s role in world and regional politics amidst heightened conflict between the United States and Soviet Union was minimal. Afflicted by a series of war against ethnic conflict and civil war, the pivotal policy for Myanmar political elites was to adhere to neutralism, fearing that external elements would add insult to injury of national peace and unity. This paper discusses how the Buddhist elites in Myanmar throughout the Cold War period imagined their domestic conflict and how attempts were made to create a gap between Myanmar people and external influence. The Myanmar elites created rhetorical discourses that gave the people of Myanmar, particularly the Burmese, a new sense of identification. U Nu, the first post-independence prime minister, employed leftist ideologies to attract support from educated Burmese, while incorporated socialist programmes like nationalization and land reform to attract the working class. Buddhism was widely used to emphasize on the creating of safe and morally justified modern society in the ‘Socialist Democracy’ framework. This crux of the issue remained the focus of Myanmar government throughout the Cold War even after U Nu was ousted by Ne Win in 1962.

The Influences of Thai Divination in Present Cambodian Fortune-telling Practice
The Khmer Rouge period had a hugely negative impact on the knowledge and practices of Khmer divination. At present, Khmer divination and astrology have been revitalized with many forms of it being embedded in people’s everyday lives in both rural settings and urban ones, like in the capital Phnom Penh. With the re-emergence of numerological fortune-telling, Khmer practitioners are now turning to Thai numerological books, such as “Patithin Neung Roi Pee (100-year calendar)”, “Tamra Phromachati,” and “Tamra Plu Luang” to supplement the diminished body of traditional Khmer knowledge that survived the war... In this paper, I aim to answer the following: To what extent does Thai divination and astrology influence Cambodian divinatory techniques? and How do Cambodian fortune-tellers in present-day Cambodia establish their divinatory authority through that of their Thai counterparts?

Overseas Chinese Journalism with Cultural Colonization, 1900-1911
With a mercantile purpose in mind, overseas Chinese initially created their print media for supporting their commercial activities. However, as time went on, their print media took on another important role: the tool for a political movement. Before the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Chinese printing in British Malaya and Siam was focused on supporting the Protect the Emperor Society. However, humiliated by their defeat as a result of the war, the Chinese in many parts of the world cried out for the transformation of the Chinese government. Along with the revolutionist movement, newspapers were flourished thanks to the financial support of groups of merchants. It’s worth noting that the prominent overseas Chinese supporters were colonial subjects who had received a western education. They benefited from the colonial system and thus willing to be a part of the British Empire. Under the prosperity of their businesses, these overseas Chinese received a remarkable experience during the colonial era that separated them from local people and the Chinese mainland. This characteristic of overseas Chinese created a distinct role in the political movement that would have an effect on China’s mainland political transformation. This article seeks to answer the question: how did Chinese printing and reading culture under colonialism help to shape the revolution in the minds of overseas Chinese, and how did the Chinese diaspora culture affect their attitudes of becoming involved in mainland Chinese political movements?

Politics of Houseives of Khana Ratsadon
Siamese revolution by “Khana Ratsadon” (the People's Party), seized power from the absolutist king, was the result of the modern school and the rise of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. All members of Khana Ratsadon revolutionists are men. Women took part in the revolution and rarely present. Because women aren't members of Khana Ratsadon, they are just parts of Khana Ratsadon members’ families. They warmly welcome revolutionists to their house for consulting. Some gave advice and facilitated the husbands’ political movement. In many situations, there was a negotiation between Khana Ratsadon members’ wives. And some were a spy. Most of the Khana Ratsadon's spouses are modern girls who had westernized education that commoners couldn't access. Missionaries encouraged literate bourgeoisie women to realize freedom equality, and refuse the feudal tradition oppressing women. Before marriage to be a housewife in domesticity, modern girls worked outside their home, had their own income and consumed women magazines which protested monarchical and patriarchal systems.In the period of Khana Ratsadon (1932-1957) housewife began to be a significant unit of the state. The government had many projects to make modern girl states relate to democratic nation-state. Every project ran by modern girls, bureaucrat’s wife, and Khana Ratsadon members’ wife. Projects led women to have politic fluence on their husbands’ politics in the revolution era.This article aims to reveal woman’s politic role and influence on the 1932 Siamese revolution which the studies are all male-dominated stories without mentioning the roles of their spouses in public and private

This panel is on Wednesday - Session 02 - Room 4

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