Worshipping the Great Moderniser

ImageRond koning Chulalongkorn – koning van Siam tussen 1868 en 1910 – heeft zich tachtig jaar na zijn dood een omvangrijke cultus ontwikkeld. Stengs laat zien hoe de Thaise stedelijke middenklasse in haar behoefte aan houvast in een snel veranderende, politiek instabiele, samenleving in koning Chulalongkorn een schutspatroon vond. Het ontstaan van deze cultus hangt samen met de verering van koning Bhumibol, de huidige Thaise vorst. Juist moderne opvattingen over Boeddhistisch koningschap geven deze cultussen hun kracht.

English summary
In Thailand the globalizing urban culture associated with the economic boom of the 1980s and 1990s gave rise to an alienating anomie. In the slipstream of this boom, an immense cult took shape around King Chulalongkorn the Great (r.1868-1910) that reworked the idea of Buddhist kingship, making it the pivot of the modern Thai social cosmos and creating a new foundation for Thai identity.

Worshipping the Great Moderniser explores the contemporary appeal of King Chulalongkorn and considers what this ruler’s unprecendented popularity says about present-day Thai society. Arguing that the exalted expectations of modern Buddhist kingship are a product of the ambitions and anxieties of Thailand’s expanding middle class, Irene Stengs compares the popular image of King Chulalongkorn with that of the present king, the highly venerated King Bhumibol Adulyadej, to show that while modern Buddhist kingship and current ideas of Thainess draw on traditional idioms, they are highly modern. This examination of the social imaginary surrounding Thai kingship and Thainess during the past century and a half yields an intriguing amalgam of ideas concerning popular religion, Buddhist kingship, nationalism, and material culture.

Irene STENGS is currently a Researcher with the Department of Ethnology at the Meertens Institute for Research and Documentation of Language and Culture of the Netherlands, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

publication year: 2009
370 pages
NUS Press Singapore
ISBN: 978-9971-69-429-6  Paperback  US$28.00  S$38.00
Available worldwide except North America.