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The Ambiguous Allure of the West $19.50

The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand

Edited by Rachel V. Harrison and Peter A. Jackson, foreword by Václav Havel

The Ambiguous Allure of the West brings studies of modern Thai history and culture into dialogue with debates in comparative intellectual history, Asian cultural studies, and postcolonial studies. It takes Thai Studies in new directions through case studies of the cultural hybridity and ambivalences that have emerged from the manifold interactions between Siam/Thailand and the West from 1850 to the present day.

The book critiques notions of Thai "uniqueness" or "exceptionalism" and locates Thai Studies in a broader, comparative perspective by arguing that modern Thailand needs to be understood as a semicolonial society. In contrast to conservative nationalist and royalist accounts of Thai history and culture, which resist comparing the country to its once-colonized Asian neighbours, this book's contributors highlight the value of postcolonial analysis in understanding the complexly ambiguous, interstitial, liminal and hybrid character of Thai/Western cultural interrelationships.

By pointing to the distinctive position of semicolonial societies in the Western-dominated world order, the book makes significant contributions to developing critical theoretical perspectives of international cultural studies. The contributors demonstrate how the disciplines of history, anthropology, political science, film and cultural studies all enhance these contestations in intersecting ways, and across different historical moments. Each of the chapters raises manifold themes and questions regarding the nature of intercultural exchange. This book directs its discussions at those studying not only in the fields of Thai and Southeast Asian studies but also in colonial and postcolonial studies, Asian cultural studies, film studies and comparative critical theory.

"Ambiguous Allure of the West finally and decisively pulls Thai Studies away from its long-dominant introspection and focus on an alleged Thai exceptionalism and sites it firmly in mainstream comparative and theoretical contexts. Strikingly original in conception and sure-footed in execution, this is an outstanding collection of essays" Ian Brown, Dean of Arts and Humanities, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

"This excellent collection of essays represents a major advance in the application of Western postcolonial theory to the study of Asian history and culture. No other book is more successful at shattering the 'uniqueness' of Thailand, or of demonstrating the many ways in which Southeast Asia is comparable to the rest of the world" Tony Day is an independent scholar and co-editor of Clearing a Space: Postcolonial Readings of Modern Indonesian Literature (2002)

Chiang Mai 2011
Silkworm Books
Size 150 x 230 cm.
292 pages
ISBN 9789622091238


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