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An Ambiguous Intimacy: Farang as Siamese Occidentalism

An Ambiguous Intimacy: Farang as Siamese Occidentalism

(p.57) 2 An Ambiguous Intimacy: Farang as Siamese Occidentalism
The Ambiguous Allure of the West
Pattana Kitiarsa
Hong Kong University Press

This chapter examines the historical constructions of farang (Westerners) in Thai thought and outlines the influence of this notion on the historical project of the making and remaking of Thai national and cultural identities. It considers the etymological origins of the term farang and then traces its changing meanings through history, from the Ayutthaya period to the colonial era, and through the era of twentieth-century modernity to the contemporary period of globalization-induced postmodernity. The chapter also traces the emergence of farang as a privileged “Other” in the Thai imagination and the way that this notion became central to state-based projects of self-civilization and self-modernization. It also shows the historically intensifying forms of cultural intimacy between farang and Thai, such that it is now no longer possible to conceptualize Thai identity separately from farang.

Keywords:   farang, Westerners, Thai, Ayutthaya period, colonial era, postmodernity, self-civilization, self-modernization, Thai identity

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