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How the Past was UsedHistorical cultures, c. 750-2000$
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Peter Lambert and Björn Weiler

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266120

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266120.001.0001

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Ancient Past, Modern Ceremony

Ancient Past, Modern Ceremony

Thailand’s Royal Barge Procession in Historical Context

(p.201) 9 Ancient Past, Modern Ceremony
How the Past was Used

Matthew Phillips

British Academy

This chapter explores how the royal barge procession, one of Thailand’s most historic cultural events, came to represent both the deep Thai past and the modern Thai nation. With a specific focus on the early Cold War, during a period where power was being openly contested amongst Thailand’s elite, the chapter identifies how the materiality of the barges presented both challenges and opportunities. Certainly, as historic artefacts, the barges promised to secure narratives of authenticity and political legitimacy. Yet, as this chapter illustrates, for the barge procession to be of genuine value to the Thai state, it would first have to be reconciled with the contemporary forces that were determining the course of Thai nation building; namely, the integration of Thailand into a world order based in the United States, and the reorganisation of Thai society around new class arrangements.

Keywords:   Thailand, royal barge procession, historic cultural events, Cold War, materiality, political legitimacy, Thai nation building

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