<i>Wathakam</i>: The Thai Appropriation of Foucault's “Discourse”

Thanes Wongyannava

in The Ambiguous Allure of the West

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9789622091214
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9789882207493 | DOI:
Wathakam: The Thai Appropriation of Foucault's “Discourse”

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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

Chapter.  9506 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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