Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory

By Siani, Edoardo | Southeast Asian Studies, August 2019 | Go to article overview

Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory


Siani, Edoardo, Southeast Asian Studies


Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory Maurizio Peleggi Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2017.

"How plausible [. . .] is it to assume the existence of a shared Thai cultural memory?" (p. 4). This is the promising question that sets Thailand historian Maurizio Peleggi's latest work, Monastery, Monument, Museum, into motion.

The monograph carries on with the author's previous work on material and visual culture in the kingdom with a narrative that aims to bring memory studies into a dialogue with a vast array of Thai sources. Peleggi 's ambitious goal is to "conceptualize cultural memory not as a storeroom or archive of tangible and intangible materials, but, rather, as a dual process of recollection and reinscription," whereby "(a)ny memorial act-individual as well as collective, concrete as well as symbolic-modifies the preexisting mnemonic landscape either by adding to it or by intentionally altering it" (p. 5). The author has also made the ambitious choice to consider sites and artifacts ranging from rock art to street art installations, and over a period spanning the pre-modern and contemporary.

Monumental in scope, Monastery, Monument, Museum makes for a surprisingly fast read. The Introduction makes up 9 pages, and there are eight chapters of approximately 20 pages each, which organize the book into three distinct parts.

The first part of the book, "Sacred Geographies," explores Thai cultural memory by focusing on devotional art in the pre-modern and the early modern era. Chapter 1 takes the reader to sites across the kingdom that have been inscribed by religious myth-whether in the form of Buddha's footprints or relics. Peleggi shows that myth becomes a form of memory that is embodied in the landscape. This is illustrated in the way that Thai Buddhists engage with sacred sites in an attempt to harvest the kind of magical potency that inhabits them (saksit).

The next chapter examines Buddha images that are regarded as embodiments of potency, and attributed magical powers and personalities. The author explores the circumstances under which apparently controversial processes-like the looting, displacement, replacement, borrowing, copying, and breaking of Buddha images- do or do not result in a loss of such extraordinary qualities.

Chapter 3 then investigates representations of foreigners-Westerners (farang) and Muslims (khaek)-in temple art, including wooden cabinets and murals. Here, Peleggi lets the court cosmology treatise of the Three Worlds (Traiphumi) guide his analysis. He therefore argues that foreigners in such contexts are mainly treated as opponents of the Dharma, and are thus used to fix the primacy of Buddhism over other world religions in Thai cultural memory. The author indicates that the royal court's adoption of "Western" cosmology during King Mongkut's reign (1851-68) is in reaction to European expansionism, and that it prompts a new search for national identity.

The second part of the volume, "Antiquities, Museums, and National History," is dedicated to the modern era. Peleggi argues that this is characterized by "the mergence and development of antiquarianism and eventually archeology, partly as the result of a shift in the elite's worldview and partly as a response to colonial and neocolonial projects of knowledge" (p. 5). Chapter 4 looks at the relationship between art and national identity in the face of European imperialism. By focusing mainly on the fourth, fifth, and sixth reigns of the Bangkok period (that is, the second half of the nineteenth century), he investigates how kings turned to the imported practice of antiquarianism in an attempt to rewrite the memory of Siam's past from a perspective that reflects European epistemological concerns.

Chapter 5 examines further the nexus between art and national identity by exploring how artifacts in museums of the 1920s were managed in response to dominant discourses of cultural evolutionism. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.