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The Ambiguous Allure of the WestTraces of the Colonial in Thailand$
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Rachel V. Harrison and Peter A. Jackson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9789622091214

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789622091214.001.0001

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Wathakam: The Thai Appropriation of Foucault's “Discourse”

Wathakam: The Thai Appropriation of Foucault's “Discourse”

(p.153) 7 Wathakam: The Thai Appropriation of Foucault's “Discourse”
The Ambiguous Allure of the West

Thanes Wongyannava

Hong Kong University Press

This chapter traces the localization of Michael Foucault's thought, in particular, his notion of “discourse,” translated as wathakam in Thai. Foucault's notion of discourse has been extensively appropriated by Thai scholars, both in the humanities and social sciences, and today Thai social scientists tend to associate the word “discourse” with Foucault. One of the first appearances of wathakam was in a satirical article, “On the Discourse of Camelology.” While clearly intended to be humorous, this article makes the serious and non-trivial point that the impact of poststructuralist and postmodern theoretical trends in Thailand may not be at the level of theory. It points to the fact that the will to truth is not a Thai preoccupation, and that the obsession with the Western search for truth is perhaps too alien an enterprise to arouse enthusiasm amongst Thais. From the Thai perspective, so long as an idea or a theory is useful or practical it will be accepted and warmly welcomed.

Keywords:   Michael Foucault, discourse, wathakam, Thai scholars, Discourse of Camelology

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