Departmental Seminar Podcast: Dr Matthew Phillips

From Modern Spectacle to Spectacular Modernity: Thailand's Royal Barges and the Cultural Cold War

Talk given at the History Department's weekly seminar on 12 March 2014


It is widely accepted that the 1958 revolution of Field Marshall Sarit Thannarat, signified a turning point in the history of the Thai nation. It was a moment when the political elite committed to a strong political and economic alliance with the United States on the one hand, whilst seeking an internal legitimacy through assertions of a unique Thai culture on the other.  In the wake of this new nationalist discourse, the Royal Barge Ceremony became one of many events in which the contradiction of such ideological developments were reconciled in experiences of apparent unity.  Important however was that whilst the event might have been a display of Thai cultural exclusivity, it was also organized principally to welcome foreign visitors by the newly established government body, the Tourist Authority of Thailand. By tracing the background to the 1958 revolution, and the re-intergration of the Royal Barge Cermony into  nationalist ideology, this paper raises questions about how traditional cultural icons were used to re-orientate Thailand's development toward an American economic centre.

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Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2014 12:39:00 GMT