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Title: Competing narratives in Cold War Thailand : identity politics and the construction of foreign others
Author: Yensabai, Rungchai
ISNI:       0000 0004 8504 5485
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis investigates political struggles between the Thai government and Thai leftist intellectuals and activists through narrative contestation of the Cold War in the late 1940s to the 1970s. The Thai government propagated a story of Thailand under communist threat from the outside, forced to ally with the United States to fend off a communist insurgency. This account of the Cold War, or the 'official narrative of the Cold War', was challenged by Thai leftist intellectuals and activists. Instead, they criticised the military government for collaborating with the United States, who for them was the country's real enemy. By employing a radical 'counter-narrative' about the Cold War, they could assert their own identity as true saviours of the Thai nation. This research proposes that these Cold War narratives are stories of the 'Thai Self'. As each narrator, including the government and Thai leftists, told stories of themselves defending the Thai nation, people, and values, they imposed an 'un-Thai' or 'foreign Otherness' on their opponents. In this way these narrators constructed a binary opposition of the Thai Self and foreign Otherness. This research focuses on three Others who were staple components in both official narratives and counter-narratives: the Americans, Northeastern villagers, and the Chinese. Each foreign Other was narrated as the opposite of the Central Thai-ness that was shaped under the Cold War contexts: Americanness versus Thai tradition and culture, Isan versus Bangkok, Chineseness versus Thai ethnicity. These sets of dichotomous identities often appeared and were referred to throughout narratives of the Cold War in relation to the narrator's heroic struggles and devotion to the Thai nation. Their competition to assert the Thai Self led to the emergence of a dominant Central Thai-ness and to the restoration of the monarchy's prestigious status in the Cold War period. This research examines materials and texts produced by the Thai government and Thai leftists by applying the technique of narrative inquiry. This approach not only provides an alternative way to understand the interrelations between Thai politics and the Cold War from a different angle, it also critiques some misrepresentations of Cold War Thailand generated by Benedict Anderson, Charles Keyes, and William Skinner.
Supervisor: McCargo, Duncan ; Tyson, Adam ; Considine, Laura Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available