|About the Book|
Performing Political Identity is an anthropological account of the multi-level dynamics that underlie the continuing electoral dominance of the Democrat Party in southern Thailand, a conspicuous anomaly in Thailands political landscape. Based onMorePerforming Political Identity is an anthropological account of the multi-level dynamics that underlie the continuing electoral dominance of the Democrat Party in southern Thailand, a conspicuous anomaly in Thailands political landscape. Based on extensive participant observation and interviews, the book presents a detailed study of candidates, support groups, and election campaigns in the province of Songkhla in the eventful years 2004 and 2005, highlighting the intimate links between local and national politics. Marc Askew argues that the Democrat ascendancy is based on a careful balance between pragmatics and poetics. Pragmatics comprises the management of the ambitions and needs of key supporters in tightly knit informal political groups, or phuak. Poetics involves the cultivation of powerful myths connecting ordinary voters to an idea of the Democrat Party as an embodiment of the idealized qualities of southern Thainess and guardian of southern Thai political culture. In the dramatic settings of political rallies, southern Democrat voters and politicians alike perform their loyalty and identity as a moral community against political enemies who are demonized as their evil opposites bent on buying votes and eating the country. From 2001, Thaksin Shinawatras Thai Rak Thai Party, although triumphant elsewhere in Thailand, faced stubborn opposition in the south. Again in 2005, against all national trends, southern voters stubbornly reaffirmed their loyalty to the Democrats. This book, the first detailed treatment of the southern Democrat Party in action, explores the symbolic and organizational strategies that the party employs to reproduce and sustain its regional political ascendancy. Marc Askew is a senior fellow in anthropology at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Bangkok: Place, Practice and Representation and Conspiracy, Politics and a Disorderly Border: The Struggle to Comprehend Insurgency in Thailands Deep South.