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Table Of Contents

1.1 Tracing Thai Historiography and Re-Orienting Thai History
1.1a. Women in the Historiography of Thailand
1.1b. The Siamese Palace in Thai Literature and Historiography
1.1c. Historiography of Lan Na and Thai History
1.2 Materials, Methods and Approaches
1.3 Chapter Themes and Arguments
Chapter 2. Constituting Lan Na: Environment, Culture and History
2.1 Environmental and Cultural Background of Lan Na
2.1.a. Founding Figures and Family Rule
2.2 Rebuilding Lan Na’s Population and Economy: 1775 - 1850
2.2a. Chao Chet Ton: Reviving Familial Alliance and Inventing the Khon Muang
2.2.b. The Structure of Lan Na Rulership in the Early Nineteenth Century
2.3 Shifting Economies, Shifting Allegiances: Mid-Nineteenth Century Lan Na
2.3.a. Siamese Intervention Gone Wrong: The Chiang Tung Wars, 1848-51
2.3.b. The 1850s, Continued: Rumors of Lan Na Overtures to the Burmese
2.3.c. The 1873 Chiang Mai Treaty: Undermining Traditional Relationships
2.3.d. What Went Wrong: Or, Siam’s Need for A Second Chiang Mai Treaty
2.4 Lan Na’s Elite Women and Agency: Thipkraisorn and Ubonwanna
2.5 Dara Rasami, Rumors and Realigning Allegiances
3.1 Binding the Kingdom Via the Circulation of Bodies, Male and Female
3.2a. Residence and Status in the Palace
3.3 The Fundamentals of Life in the Inner Palace
3.3a. Food and Supplies
3.3b. Water and Hygiene
3.3c. Sex and Reproduction
3.3d. Illness and Death
3.3e. Death and the Disposition of Remains
3.3f. Entertainment and Amusements
3.3g. Male Bodies in the Inner Palace
3.4 The Palace as a Cultural Crucible
3.5 Language, Loyalty and the Politics of the Personal in The Siamese Court
3.6 Transgression and Punishment in the Inner Palace
3.7 Conclusion
Chapter 4: Dara Rasami and Performing Lan Na Identity in the Siamese Court
4.1 Royal Circulations: Moving the Siamese Court in the Early Twentieth Century
4.2 Performing Ethnicity: Sartorial and Bodily Expression and Consumption
4.2a. Textile Traditions of Lan Na
4.2b. Siamese Court Textiles and Dress
4.2c. Dara Rasami and Ethnic Difference within the Siamese Court
4.3 Drama and Performing Difference within Siamese Siwilai
4.3a. Siamese Dance-Drama during the Fifth Reign (1878-1910)
4.3b. Dara Rasami’s Musical and Dramatic Interests
4.3c. Domesticating Siam’s Peripheries through Lakhon Rong
4.4 Diplomatic Gestures: Deploying Dara Rasami’s Ethnic Difference
4.4.a. Dara Rasami as a Colonial Proxy: The 1906 Visit of a Shan Princess
4.3.b. Deploying Northernness: Dara Washes the King’s Feet with Her Hair
4.5 Dara Rasami: “Self-Orientalizing” or Strategically Essentializing?
Chapter 5. Dara Rasami Returns to Chiang Mai: An Outsider at Home
5.1 Dara Rasami’s Last Years at Suan Dusit and Her Return to Chiang Mai
5.2 Dara Rasami’s Later Life and Role in Chiang Mai’s Contemporary Memory
5.3 After Dara Rasami: The Decline and Fall of Palace Women in Siam
5.4 Opportunities for Further Research
5.5 Concluding Remarks
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A "Foreign" Princess in the Siamese Court

A "Foreign" Princess in the Siamese Court

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Published by Lim Yee Min
The reign of Siam’s King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) is possibly the best-studied period in Thai history: a watershed era when Siam undertook its transformation from kingdom to nation-state within a context of intense European imperialist competition in Southeast Asia. Yet the roles played by women in this period – particularly the women of the Siamese palace – remain largely unexamined. The deployment of a patriarchal dynastic model in Thai historiography, as well as an Orientalist tendency to exoticize it as a “harem,” discount Siam’s all-female “Inner Palace” as a purely domestic space and thus outside the arena of legitimate political activity. This project aims to restore the domestic arena of Siam’s Inner Palace to our understanding of traditional Siamese power structures. It does so by focusing on the life of a woman who functions as the exception that proves the rule: a “foreign” consort named Chao (Princess) Dara Rasami, who came to the Siamese court from the neighboring
kingdom of Lan Na in the mid-1880s. Using her nearly thirty-year career as a royal consort as a lens for looking into the lifeways of the Inner Palace, I examine the crucial political and social roles played by consorts in the Siamese palace. As an ethnically different woman from a neighboring kingdom, Dara herself acted in two important capacities. Firstly, Dara Rasami functioned as both a hostage and a diplomat for her home kingdom in Chiang Mai, ultimately earning a somewhat higher status for her home region under Siamese rule. Secondly, as a representative of cultural difference within the palace, Dara’s performance of Chiang Mai identity was encouraged as part of Siam’s “modern” discourse of “siwilai,” or a hierarchy of civilizations of which Siamese culture was seen as the pinnacle. As such,
Dara Rasami’s story provides a fresh perspective on both the socio-political roles played by Siamese palace women, and Siam’s responses to the intense imperialist pressures it faced in the late nineteenth century.
The reign of Siam’s King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) is possibly the best-studied period in Thai history: a watershed era when Siam undertook its transformation from kingdom to nation-state within a context of intense European imperialist competition in Southeast Asia. Yet the roles played by women in this period – particularly the women of the Siamese palace – remain largely unexamined. The deployment of a patriarchal dynastic model in Thai historiography, as well as an Orientalist tendency to exoticize it as a “harem,” discount Siam’s all-female “Inner Palace” as a purely domestic space and thus outside the arena of legitimate political activity. This project aims to restore the domestic arena of Siam’s Inner Palace to our understanding of traditional Siamese power structures. It does so by focusing on the life of a woman who functions as the exception that proves the rule: a “foreign” consort named Chao (Princess) Dara Rasami, who came to the Siamese court from the neighboring
kingdom of Lan Na in the mid-1880s. Using her nearly thirty-year career as a royal consort as a lens for looking into the lifeways of the Inner Palace, I examine the crucial political and social roles played by consorts in the Siamese palace. As an ethnically different woman from a neighboring kingdom, Dara herself acted in two important capacities. Firstly, Dara Rasami functioned as both a hostage and a diplomat for her home kingdom in Chiang Mai, ultimately earning a somewhat higher status for her home region under Siamese rule. Secondly, as a representative of cultural difference within the palace, Dara’s performance of Chiang Mai identity was encouraged as part of Siam’s “modern” discourse of “siwilai,” or a hierarchy of civilizations of which Siamese culture was seen as the pinnacle. As such,
Dara Rasami’s story provides a fresh perspective on both the socio-political roles played by Siamese palace women, and Siam’s responses to the intense imperialist pressures it faced in the late nineteenth century.

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Published by: Lim Yee Min on May 18, 2013
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05/18/2013

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