Thai Studies Program
The Thai Studies Program, under the direction of Jay Rosengard, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, promotes the study of Thailand at Harvard University.
The program has established a new professorship in Thai Studies, as well as running series such as The Surin Pitsuwan Lecture in Thai Politics and Society (renamed in 2018; formerly The Thailand@Harvard Lecture Series), and an annual lecture series named for the late Professor Stanley Tambiah. The Tambiah Lectures bring representatives of academia, business, government, and other professions to Harvard to give public presentations.
The current Thai Studies Program Committee includes the following faculty:
- Jay Rosengard, Lecturer in Public Policy, HKS; Director
- Malavika Reddy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, FAS; Chair
- David Atherton, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, FAS
- David Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, HSPH
- Charles Hallisey, Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, HDS
- Tyler Giannini, Clinical Professor of Law, HLS
- Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences, FAS; TSP Inaugural Director Emeritus
Some examples of events the Thai Studies Program hosted since 2019 include:
- Thai Studies Seminar Series: “CONSTITUTIONAL BRICOLAGE: Thailand’s Sacred King Versus the Rule of Law” with Professor Eugénie Mérieau & “Charnel Knowledge and Imperial Power: Medico-Legal Science in Siam, c. 1855-1900” with Professor Trais Pearson
- 5th Annual Stanley J. Tambiah Lecture in Thai Studies: “The Thrall of Monarchy: A History of Royalism Through a Study of Prince Prisdang” with Professor Tamara Loos
- 9th Annual Surin Pitsuwan Lecture in Thai Politics and Society: “Use and Abuse of Thailand’s Lèse-Majesté Law: The Peculiarity of Thai Democracy” with Chiranuch Premchaiporn
Past Events Hosted by the Thai Studies Program
The annual Surin Pitsuwan Lecture in Thai Politics and Society (formerly Thailand@Harvard Lecture) has been an important flagship event gathering scholars, students, and the wider community around the study of Thailand. Past speakers include:
- Spring 2021, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, “Use and Abuse of Thailand’s Lèse-Majesté Law: The Peculiarity of Thai Democracy”
- Spring 2019, Ajarn Thitinan Pongsudhirak, “Elections, Coups, and Constitutions: Thailand's Reckoning in Regional Perspective”
- Fall 2016, Pravit Rojanaphruk, “Holding Governments and Journalists Accountable: Rights and Responsibilities of a Free Press in Thailand”
- Spring 2016, Maurizio Peleggi, “Prehistory and the Cold War: American Neocolonial Archaeology in Thailand”
- Fall 2015, Veerathai Santiprabob, “What Can We Expect from Thailand’s Reform?”
- Spring 2014, Duncan McCargo, “Policing Bangkok”
- Fall 2013, Apiwat Ratanawaraha, “Shaping the Future of Thai Cities”
- Spring 2013, Prasarn Trairatvorakul “From Here to There: Economic Transition in Emerging Markets”
- 2012, Komatra Chuengsatiansup, “After the Flood: Reaction, Relief, and Recovery in Thailand”
The Tambiah Lectures bring representatives of academia, business, government, and other professions to Harvard to give public presentations in honor of the late Stanley J. Tambiah, who was a Harvard professor and leading scholar in Thai and Buddhism studies. Past speakers include:
- Spring 2019, Tamara Loos, “The Thrall of Monarchy: A History of Royalism Through a Study of Prince Prisdang”
- Fall 2018, Penny Van Esterik, “Materializing Thai Heritage: Chance and the Life Cycle in the New Ethnology”
- Fall 2016, Thongchai Winichakul, “The Invented Old Siamese Conceptions of the Monarchy”
- Fall 2015, Justin McDaniel, “On the Back Streets of the Galactic Polity: Studying Indian Religions in Modern Thailand”
- Fall 2015, Katherine Bowie, “The Politics of Rituals: Humor and the Vicissitudes of the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand”
The Thai Studies Program has hosted numerous Seminar Series which have brought together Harvard Faculty, undergraduate and graduate students working in Thailand, visiting scholars from Thailand, and scholars of Thailand from throughout the US. Past speakers include:
- Eugénie Mérieau, “Constitutional Bricolage: Thailand’s Sacred King Versus the Rule of Law”
- Puangthong R. Pawakapan, “The Thai Military’s Remobilization of the Royalist Mass”
- Scott Stonington, “Death in Thailand and a Hauntology of Ethics”
- Eli Elinoff, “Subjects of Politics: Between Democracy and Dictatorship in Thailand”
- Andrew Johnson, “The River Grew Tired of Us: Spectrality, Infrastructure, and the Search for Potency Along the Changing Mekong”
- Samson Lim, “Photography and Forgery in Early Capitalist Bangkok”
- Malavika Reddy, “The King in I: Locating Kingship and the Limits of Law in a Thai Border Town”
- Somsak Chunharas, “Reform for Equity and Social Justice: Are There Hopes, or is it Just a Joke?”
- Quentin Parson, “Morbid Subjects: Forensic Medicine and Sovereignty in Siam”
- Scott Stonington, “On Anti-Mindfulness: Competing Figures of Lay and Ascetic Coping for Chronic Pain in Thailand”
- Sitthithep Eaksittipong, “The Politics of T(h)ai History in Sino-Thai Relations”
- Jutathorn Pravattiyagul, “Queer Bodies, Beautiful Masks: Thai Transgender Women in Europe”
- Pandit Chanrochanakit, "A Short History of Truth Commission in Thailand: The Culture of Ambiguity and Impunity"
- Speakers Forum, "Human Rights and Everyday Governance in Thailand: Past, Present, and Future”
- Pinkaew Laungaramsri, "Cards, Colors, and the Culture of Identification"
- Bryce Beemer, "Creolized Kingdoms: Slave Gathering Warfare, Thai Dance-Drama, and the Transformation of Burmese Royal Arts"
- Dzung Nguyen Quang, "They Live in a National Park: Protected Areas, Local Knowledge, Buddhist Environmentalism and Ethnicity of an Upland Community in Northern Thailand"
- Pavin Chachavalpongpun, “The Thai Monarchy and the Ideology of Neo-Royalism: Trap or Opportunity?”
Thai Language Studies
In recent years, the teaching of the Thai language at Harvard has been offered at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels thanks to the work of Wipa Khampook. One of the students to recently benefit from their teaching was Kerry Hammond (College graduate '14), whose senior thesis examined the culture of large family business corporations in Thailand. Kerry writes "Studying Thai was one of the most influential learning experiences I had at Harvard. As a result, I was able to engage more substantially with my senior thesis research and develop a deeper appreciation for the country I had been studying for three years." Currently, the Asia Center and the Department of South Asian Studies are conducting a search for a Preceptor in Thai which will formalize and institutionalize instruction of the language at Harvard, creating a strong foundation for Thai studies scholarship at Harvard University.