Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand

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Cornell University Press, 2006 - History - 212 pages

Unlike its Southeast Asian neighbors, Thailand was never colonized by an imperial power. However, Siam (as Thailand was called until 1939) shared a great deal in common with both colonized states and imperial powers: its sovereignty was qualified by imperial nations while domestically its leaders pursued European colonial strategies of juridical control in the Muslim south. The creation of family law and courts in that region and in Siam proper most clearly manifests Siam's dualistic position. Demonstrating the centrality of gender relations, law, and Siam's Malay Muslims to the history of modern Thailand, Subject Siam examines the structures and social history of jurisprudence to gain insight into Siam's unique position within Southeast Asian history. Tamara Loos elaborates on the processes of modernity through an in-depth study of hundreds of court cases involving polygyny, marriage, divorce, rape, and inheritance adjudicated between the 1850s and 1930s. Most important, this study of Siam offers a novel approach to the question of modernity precisely because Siam was not colonized yet was subject to transnational discourses and symbols of modernity. In Siam, Loos finds, the language of modernity was not associated with a foreign, colonial overlord, so it could be deployed both by elites who favored continuation of existing domestic hierarchies and by those advocating political and social change.

 

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Contents

One Family Law and Colonial Modernity in Thailand
29
Three Colonial Law and Buddhist Modernity
72
Four The Imperialism of Monogamy in Family Law
100
Five Crisis of Wifedom
130
Six Nationalism and Male Sexuality
155
Seven Subjects of History
173
Glossary
189
Index
205
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About the author (2006)

Tamara Loos is Associate Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at Cornell University. She is the author of Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand and Bones around My Neck: The Life and Exile of a Prince Provocateur, both from Cornell.

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