SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Chanokporn Chutikamoltham

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Chanokporn Chutikamoltham
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Thesis title:
Ideological state apparatus and the return of the repressed: the study of Thai school textbooks and Thai low culture
Year of Study:
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PhD Research

The State uses ideological apparatuses to implant desirable ideologies into Thai citizens. The dominant ideologies were invented by Siamese elites under Western influences during the so-called ‘semicolonial’ period, when Siam was trying to be ‘siwilai’ (transliterated from the word ‘civilized’). This pushed the antecedent Thai culture and rural Thai culture to the status of barbaric culture and marginalized those that were not ‘siwilai’. However, the state could never completely control cultural expression. What has been repressed always comes back, here in the form of low culture that contains undesirable elements such as illogicality, animism, aggressive actions, sexual elements, polygamy etc. Low culture works as catharsis and respite, which gives space for people’s suppressed desire and as counter-culture, which contests state ideologies.

In my thesis, I will look at the school textbooks as the prototype of state ideologies and to look comparatively with the pre-modern Siamese culture to see what has been suppressed and marginalized by the modern siwilai discourse. I will look into lowbrow cultural materials to see how the suppressed has returned, and in what form. Most especially, I will study in greater detail, the Thai horror genre, which is generally known as a low-brow cultural product and has been popular with a wide range of audiences especially the low-end market. The Thai horror genre is a fusion of animism, sexual elements, vulgar jokes which radically contradicts the notion of siwilai. It significantly shows the illustration of haunted village, where the ghosts return to take revenge on the villains. This contradicts to the textbooks utopia village. I will study the genre in its popular form of cheap comics, and grade B films and make comparisons with state-endorsed textbooks.

My thesis draws upon cultural studies, post-colonial theories, psychoanalytic theories. Ultimately, I would like to argue that people are not totally dominated by the state through ideological state apparatuses. There are many ways and forms to revolt that can be used as respite or catharsis. Also, I would like to show that the determination of high and low culture is the product of discourses under political agendas.