Renegade Royalist: Anti-Monarchical Politics and Affect in Thai History
Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum 600 South Gregory Street Urbana
The talk focuses on the life of a renegade Thai prince named Prisdang (1851-1935), who spent half of his life abroad in political exile. He has been expunged from the mainstream record of Thai history but is well-positioned for a comeback because of his critique of Siam’s absolute monarchy in the 1880s and his (reluctant) enmity with that country’s most beloved and respected historic king, Chulalongkorn. Prince Prisdang’s decision to live in exile in 1890 has been considered a form of self-exile because the government never officially ordered his exile, his imprisonment, or his execution. However, the prince believed his life was at stake. The details of his decision-making process reveal that in the juridical and political context of turn of the century Siam, no genuine difference existed between the concepts of exile by government threat and self-exile. The talk will explore parallels with notions of self-censorship in Thailand’s explosive high-stakes context of lèsé majesté today. It also critiques the discipline of history’s demand for causality, which too often eclipses efforts to present a fuller, humanizing view of the social context in which decisions were made and actions taken. Privileging causality prioritizes certain historical details over others but only in retrospect, in the act of constructing history. I weave the individualized, emotive dimension into historical scholarship to bring contingency and specificity to the writing of history. These microhistories reveal subjective experiences of the world in a way that engages the reader in an intimate dialogue with history and role of affect in narrative nonfiction.
Department of History, Cornell University