Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Mapping National Anxieties: Thailand's Southern Conflict

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Mapping National Anxieties: Thailand's Southern Conflict

Article excerpt

Mapping national anxieties: Thailand's southern conflict

By DUNCAN J. MCCARGO

Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2011. Pp. 203. Photographs, Figures, Preface, Maps, Bibliography, Index.

doi: 10.1017/S0022463413000775

It is hard to imagine anyone interested in either Thai politics or Thailand's southern insurgency not familiar with the prodigious output of Duncan McCargo. Mapping national anxieties: Thailand's southern conflict is McCargo's third book on Thailand's deep south. The first, Rethinking Thailand's southern violence (NUS Press, 2007), was an edited volume, the contents of which first appeared as a special edition of Critical Asian Studies in 2006). This was followed by his widely read and well-received monograph, Tearing apart the land: Islam and legitimacy in southern Thailand (Cornell University Press, 2008). Like Rethinking Thailand's southern violence, Mapping national anxieties makes available to a readership without access to library databases or snout to sniff out open-access versions available on the Internet, articles which have appeared in a range of journals between 2006 and 2011. The book's eight chapters are peppered with some stunning shots by Ryan Anson and are followed by two appendices. The first is a short netnography presenting exchanges about southern strife and relations between Thai-Buddhist and Malay-Muslims on a range of Thai bulletin boards, chat rooms, and websites by Thai academic Phrae Sirisakdamloeng (pp. 160-83). These graphically illustrate the Buddhist fears and the presence of a decidedly uncivil Buddhism in Thailand dealt with by McCargo in chapter 2. The second appendix contains a list of McCargo's publications on Thailand's southern conflict, which precedes a bibliography and a most helpful index. The republication of previously published works is not the only element of repetition in Mapping national anxieties. While McCargo honed arguments that the southern insurgency was first and foremost a crisis of political legitimacy in Tearing apart the land, the chapters in this present work consider how the wider crisis in Thai politics has impacted the far south. Readers interact with themes that never made it into Tearing apart the land, and insights written (or compiled) in the wake of the violent end to months of political protest in central Bangkok during 2010. Thailand's southern insurgency and political and civil chaos in Bangkok represent Thailand's twin fires (chapter 8) and national anxieties (chapter 1) that McCargo maps out for his readers. For McCargo, southern insecurity should be conceived as a severest symptom of national disease. Furthermore, as an essentially political problem, political solutions are required. Chapter 2, entitled 'Buddhist fears', explores Thai Buddhism's decidedly uncivil dark side. Similar to Michael Jerryson's work on monks in South Thailand in Sacred fury (2008), and contrary to arguments by Charles Keyes and Donald Swearer about civil Buddhism, McCargo describes Buddhists' responses to Muslim violence. Recent intimidation of Muslims seeking to brand halal products in Sri Lanka, and violence against Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhists are, lamentably, far from isolated cases of Theravada Buddhism's uncivil constituency. …

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