The Revival and Reconstruction of Women Warriors’ Popular Representations in Thailand: Backgrounds, Motives, and Strategies of the Post-absolutist Regime

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Natanaree Posrithong

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Following 1932, Thailand has gone through a period of significant political and social transitions. Citizens became the focus of many social reforms introduced by the civilian government. The post-absolutist period witnessed a number of nationalist campaigns, which employed national martyrs as tools for promotion. From then on, the overlooked representations of women warriors were revived and reconstructed by the government. In this process, their myths were reintroduced, and their roles were reshaped to fit their new roles as state agents throughout the era, which included the era of anti-communist regime and the financial crisis of 1997. This paper aims to explore four Thai women warriors, Thao Suranari, Thao Thepkasatri, Thao Sisunthon, and Somdet-Phra Suriyothai in relation to the discourse of the state’s prescribed roles and popular representations. In order to understand the regime’s motives to revive and commemorate women warriors as national heroines, the paper is divided into three parts: (i) the state's prescribed role for women in official historiography; (ii) representations of the glorious female warriors as the nation’s role models; and (iii) official strategies and motives for the commemoration of female warriors. At the end, this paper will demonstrate the multiple functions of women warriors’ representations, who were modelled to serve various purposes for the government in different circumstances and crises that the nation had experienced.

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