SOAS University of London

Centre for Creative Industries, Media and Screen Studies

Contesting Constructions of Gendered Identities and National Belonging Through the Visual Representation of the Female Body in Post-1997 Thai Cinema

Speaker: Jiratorn Sakulwattana

The following study focuses on the visualisation and representation of the physical body on screen, examining the relationship between gendered identities and ideas of national belonging in contemporary Thai society. After the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, a nationalist discourse has been heavily promoted in different public domains of Thai society whereby the notion of a Thai nation, and being a member of said nation, has been redefined. In the realm of cinema, a number of historical texts as well as films centred on the theme of nostalgia have been produced, all of which render a glorified image of an imagined past.

This paper draws on both works concerning the physicality of the human body as the key factor in the process of self-identification as suggested by Frantz Fanon in Black Skins, White Masks (1952) and Jacques Derrida’s concept of ‘deconstruction’ (1967:25). Both are concerned with the process of identification through the presence of the body and the politics of self-identification where, without the presence of the “other”, the self cannot be identified. The applicability of the proposed theoretical framework will be demonstrated through an examination of Plae Kao / The Old Wound (M.L. Pundhevanop Dhewakul, 2014), a film adaptation of a Thai novel with a romantic theme delivering political criticism of 1936 Thailand. This textual analysis will explore particular gendered identities and ideas of national belonging, and examine how they are constructed through the visualisation of the female body on screen.