Recovering Khmer Ethnic Identity from the Thai National Past: An Ethnography of the Localism Movement in Surin Province

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Cornell University, 2006 - Khmers - 465 pages
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The second issue of this thesis pertains to how the imperial imaginary serves as a frame for the post-Cold War revival of ethnic Khmer identity. While official recognition of the nation's many loci of cultural difference may have finally eclipsed the hegemony of cultural and linguistic unity, I maintain that the state's valorization of Khmer ethnicity under the aegis of localism is structurally mediated by a different hegemonic vision of the national past--one which casts the ethnic Khmer as the bearers of ancient Khmer heritage who re-enact a tributary form of loyalty to the central Thai court. My thesis argues that the ethnic Khmers' willingness to signify Khmer antiquity stems from two inter-related factors: a desire to be seen by the state; and a wish to overcome the stigma of being ethnically Khmer during the Cold War era.

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