Disturbing Conventions draws the study of Thai literature out of the relative isolation that has to date impeded its participation in the wider field of comparative and world literature. Predominantly penned by Thai academics, the collection decentres Thai literary studies in order to move beyond the traditionalist, conservative concerns of the academy which have, until relatively recently, foreclosed the use of “Western” theory in the study of Thai literature.
The book introduces new frames of analysis to the study of Thai literature to bring it into dialogue with debates in wider fields and the world beyond its national borders. As a result, Disturbing Conventions offers an essential contribution to the comparative study of world literature and Asian cultural studies.
Foreword: Decentering Siam/Thailand in Southeast Asia and the World - Thongchai Winichakul (University of Wisconsin–Madison)/ Introduction: Theoretical F(r)ictions: Cultures of Criticism, Modes of Colonialism and Thai Literary Studies - Rachel V. Harrison/ Section I: Implication, Influence and the Colonial West/ 1. The Making of the Thai Canon: Semicoloniality, Print Capitalism, and the Reconfiguration of Cultural Authority (Thanapol Limapichart, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok)/ 2. Through the Literary Looking Glass: Vajiravudh’s Writings and Siam’s Negotiations with the Imperial West - Thosaeng Chaochuti (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok)/ 3. Mummies, Sex and Sand: Bangkok Gothic and the Adventure Fiction of “Victorian” Siam - Rachel V. Harrison/ Section II: Conceptualizing Thai Modernity through its Others: The Rural-Urban Divide/ 4. Luk Isan (A Child of the North East): Techniques of Composition and Issues of Cultural Nationalism - Nopphorn Prachakul (Thammasat University, Bangkok)/ 5. Orientalisation from Within and Consuming the Modern World: Rural-Urban Contact in Thai Popular Literature of the 1970s - Janit Feangfu (Chiangmai University, Chiangmai)/ Section III: Individuality, Noncomformity and Sexuality: Reading Against the Grain/ 6. New Readings of The Verdict and Somsong’s Appeal - Chusak Pattarakulvanit (Thammasat University, Bangkok) / 7. Feminist Perspectives in the Analysis of the Modern Thai Novel - Kham Phaka (Chiangmai University, Chiangmai)/ 8. Gender, Sexuality and Family in Old Siam: Women and Men in Khun Chang Khun Phaen- Chris Baker (Independent scholar) and Pasuk Pongphaichit (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok)/ Section IV: Going Global and its Effects / 9. Cosmopolitanism and its Limits in Contemporary Thai Novels - Suradech Chotiudompant (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok)/ Afterword / Part 1: Thai Literature as World Literature - Chusak Pattarakulvanit, Ben Tran, Suradech Chotiudompant and Rachel V Harrison / Part 2: Disturbing Crossings: The Unhomely, the Unworldly and the Question of Method in Approaches to World Literature - Ayman El-Desouky / Bibliography/ Index
[The book] offers a unique collection of contemporary Thai literature and Thai society as a whole. . . .We must salute the talented editing work led by Rachel Harrison: the general introduction and introductions of each part are solid and particularly well documented and thoughtful. . . .Let us hope that this collection will quickly become an essential reference for those who want to study literature and Thai society.
Located at the crossroads of postcolonial studies, literary theory, and world literature, Disturbing Conventions opens out a fascinating field of contemporary literary production and theoretical reflection. This wide-ranging collection should be read by anyone interested in thinking freshly about the uses and transformations of global theory in a complex and contested local environment.
“Disturbing Conventions” challenges head on the conservative nationalist ideology that has dominated Thai literary studies, assembling for the first time in one volume many of the leading figures bringing critical theoretical perspectives to Thai cultural studies and comparative literature.
“Disturbing Conventions” also opens new, much needed conversations in world literature by extending postcolonial analysis to locate the modern literatures of nominally independent Siam/Thailand in a semicolonial frame.
In overturning entrenched views of the Thai canon, this book is a direct intervention in the culture wars being fought today in Thailand, where democratic openness and freedom of expression in media and the arts are threatened by reactionary politicians and draconian censorship laws.
And in throwing down the gauntlet to postcolonial studies to incorporate semicolonial societies into a genuinely global critique of imperialism this book places modern Thai literature centre-stage in debates on the direction of 21st century critical theory.
Can a book change a critical culture? Disturbing Conventions shows us how to: by showing how those conventions were formed in the first place, what they obscure or exclude, and the many ways in which they can be challenged. Through an extraordinarily lively critical conversation and pathbreaking analytical work, Disturbing Conventions pokes at taboos in Thai literary culture, unearths alternative genealogies, and suggests new methodologies and avenues of enquiry. A must read for anyone interested in critical Asian Studies, Disturbing Conventions offers exciting possibilities for comparative work in Cultural Studies.
Rachel V. Harrison is a Reader in Thai Cultural Studies in the Department of South East Asia at SOAS, University of London. She has published widely on issues of gendered difference, sexuality, modern literature and cinema in Thailand as well as the comparative literature of South East Asia. She is the co-editor, in collaboration with Peter A. Jackson, of The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand (Hong Kong University Press and Cornell University Press). She is also editor of the journal South East Asia Research.