Hegemony and the Politics of Culture and Identity in Thailand

Ministering Culture

Author: Michael Kelly Connors


This article argues that the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in Thailand needs to be understood in a broadly historical perspective that relates to the role of culture in hegemonic strategies of the state. It presents an overview of broadly defined culture policy in Thailand from the 1930s before moving to a more detailed discussion of the period from the 1980s to the present. The principle contention, developed in the second half of the article, is that the current policies of Thailand's Ministry of Culture, and its role in hegemonic identity production, can only be understood by taking account of the variety of factors that shaped the Ministry's emergence. These factors include the influence of international development agencies, strategies of appropriation by the Thai state, and the role of progressive forces within Thailand that seek political and cultural reform. The circumstances under which the Ministry was formed have made it a site of contestation between conservative royalist-nationalist perspectives on Thai national identity and progressive localist and international understandings of Thai national identity.
Countries: Thailand

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December 2006
© 2004 ILO/Cassidy K.