Showing 1-10 of 12 results


    From the field to the protest

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 21/09/2015

    » The Thai music known as luk thung (son of the field) is difficult to define because it borrows from everywhere and evolves over time. To the ear, however, it is unmistakable. That's a result of its two dominant rhythms, one from Thai folk music, the other from Latin America and an undercurrent of melancholy from the genre's archetypal song about the country boy far from home thinking of the village and the girl back there. Ethnomusicologist James Mitchell defines it simply as "Thailand's most popular music".


    Benjarong in detail

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 05/01/2018

    » Benjarong is the brightly coloured porcelain made in China for the Thai market which enjoyed a peak of popularity in the 19th century. Dawn Rooney sets out to provide "a single reference source for Bencharong ... the book I wish had been available when I first became interested in this little-known form of ceramic art 20 years ago".


    How Bangkok came to be

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 03/11/2017

    » In 1963, Edward Van Roy arrived in Thailand to work on a survey of hilltribes. This was a golden era of anthropology with an emphasis on ethnicity and villages. Since his retirement from the UN in 1997, Van Roy has been tramping round the localities of old Bangkok, peering into the temples and shrines, rooting out the memories of the remaining old residents, and ransacking libraries for memoirs and histories.


    The perfection of humour

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 02/06/2017

    » The story of Vessantara, or Wetsandon, is perhaps the most famous and best-known tale in Thailand. Although originating among the jataka tales of India, most think it a local creation (Thais call it chadok). There is a Pali version in the early Buddhist texts, and official Thai-language adaptations since the 15th century. But the story also lives in popular memory, in pictures on wat walls, and in performances at annual festivals, and in these forms there is great scope for creative adaptation.


    Understanding China's banks

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 26/01/2017

    » Every couple of years now, a book appears predicting the imminent crisis, breakdown, collapse or disintegration of China. The professor Cassandra touting a recent example passed through Bangkok last week. Among such works there is a subset that focuses on finance, especially banking. These books and articles argue that China's banks are inefficient because of government control; that they are racking up debt, much of which is hidden; and that, unless they are quickly privatised, they will be the spark for the aforesaid crisis, breakdown, collapse, or disintegration. In the last month, I have twice been treated to this argument first-hand, once from an American and once from a Japanese.


    From Dan Beach Bradley to Todd Lavelle

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 15/12/2014

    » As a story, this account of Americans in Siam begins rather slowly. Missionaries who make very few converts. Traders who do very little trade. Diplomats with very little tact. In 1870s, the American consul sums up his countrymen in Siam as "mutinous sailors, rascally captains, quarrelling and libidinous missionaries". The only American who leaves a real mark on Siam's history in this era is the missionary-printer-newspaperman-medic, Dan Beach Bradley. By 1900, there are around 125 Americans in Siam. 


    Arts of the supernatural

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 17/11/2014

    » Susan Conway's beautiful and fascinating book focuses on graphical devices drawn on paper, cloth or the skin, and used mainly for protection, healing and divination. She passes by spirit mediums, rites and amulets because they have been described by others, and builds on her knowledge of iconography from her earlier work on textiles. The study covers the Eastern Shan States and Lan Na, especially Yaunghwe, Kengtung, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son.


    Silent no more

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 17/03/2014

    » Why have Northeasterners become such enthusiastic supporters for Thaksin Shinawatra, the Pheu Thai party and the red-shirt movement? Charles Keyes first arrived in the Northeast in 1962 as a research student in rural anthropology. After the 2010 crackdown on red shirts in Bangkok, he realised he had to rethink all he had learned and written about the region over the last 48 years. This book is the result.


    Truth is rarely simple

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 19/08/2013

    » Thai political leaders don't write memoirs, so Abhisit Vejjajiva's account of events from his appointment as prime minister in December 2008 to the end of the red-shirt demonstration on April 20, 2010 is path-breaking. Abhisit explains that he wrote this memoir because red shirts have made political capital by claiming that government forces killed protesters in a brutal crackdown, so he needs to set the record straight: "We have heard plenty of lies _ I now ask for the opportunity to tell the truth."


    Force of the farmers

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 03/09/2012

    » Once upon a time anthropologists did "village studies". They found a place that became "their village." They counted the houses, traced the kin relations, described farming systems, and analysed the rituals.

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