Identities, Cultural Practices and the Changing Political Landscape of Modern Southeast Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Identities, Cultural Practices and the Changing Political Landscape of Modern Southeast Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Wirawan Naruepiti, Thammasat University, Thailand (organizer, presenter)
Lalita Hanwong, Kasetsart University, Thailand (presenter, chair)
Poonnatree Jiaviriyaboonya, Nakhon Phanom University, Thailand (presenter)
Chulalak Pleumpanya, Harvard-Yenching Institute, United States (presenter)
Chanan Yodhong, Thammasat University, Thailand (presenter)
Sittithep Eaksittipong, Chiang Mai University, Thailand (discussant)


This panel consists of young and mid-career scholars engaging with cultural politics and political ideologies that emerged from rapidly changing politics in Southeast-Asia, late 19 and 20 centuries, in response to modernism and so-called 'identity threats'.

Hanwong discusses how Burmese elites reconciled Buddhism and Marxism ideologies and created their own religious and political prospects in an effort to eliminate colonial past and tackle Communism. Naruepiti studies a Siamese Prince who attended the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago in 1893. He showed the non-stagnant religious characteristic due to his close association with the trans-regional movement. Modernism also played a pivotal role around the world.

Yodhong focuses on Thai prominent politicians' wives in the 1930s and beyond gives us reflections of women in revolutionary politics in the decade. We also focus on cultural practices during the turbulent political environment in Southeast-Asia. Pluempanya’s exploration of overseas-Chinese journalism in Malaya and Siam gives us pictures of its emergence from wealthy groups that set them apart from that of mainland-Chinese and local people in the respective countries. She shows that the colonial experienced that they went on to inspire a revolution in mainland-China.

Knowledge transference and locals adjustability to modern Cambodia can also be seen in Jiaviriyaboonya’s study of the modern-day fortune-telling practice which was briefly extinguished during the Khmer Rouge. After the nightmare ended, they turned to Thai numerological books to supplement the diminished body of traditional knowledge.

In summary, the panel attempts to draw a coherent picture of how Southeast-Asian responds to modernity by creating a new set of identity and cultural practices.