Date of Thesis

2010

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Department

History

First Advisor

David Willson Del Testa

Abstract

A careful study of Siam's public monuments is the key to understanding the development of the Siamese nation in its formative period, from 1908 to 1945. As Siam's elites attempted to modernize the state in order to compete with the more developed powers of the West, they recognized that nationalism could potentially be used as a force to increase popular unity, consolidate modernization programs, legitimize their own authority, and protect the country from foreign conquest. The problem they faced, however, was how best to communicate nationalism to the people. Different factions throughout this era had their own idea of what it meant to be Siamese, and all of them wanted to control the national image. But literacy in Siam was extremely low, and art too expensive for most individuals to possess. Public political monuments, the focus of this thesis, therefore became the primary means of manifesting and propagating the underlying tenets of the new Siamese nation. Public monuments express the changing imaginings of the Siamese nation in this period of enormous transformations and turbulence, through the motives behind their commissioning, the political messages they convey, and popular reactions to the monuments. Three primary strains of Siamese nationalism emerged during this period: royalist nationalism, republican nationalism, and military nationalism. These three imaginings of the nation continually developed and interacted with each other, but each was particularly dominant at a given time in Siamese history. Monuments of the royalist period (1908-1925) embody the desire of Siam's kings to not only promote national pride amongst the Siamese people, but also advocate an image of nation and king as one. Monuments of the republican period (1925-1939) express the changing and sometimes contradictory events of their times, as they demonstrate new national values based on the sovereignty of the people, the value of the constitution, and the growing power of the military. And monuments of the military period (1939-1945) espouse an assertive and militaristic national image of warfare, patriotism, authority, and vigor. This thesis explores the nationalistic themes expressed in these monuments, and how these themes played out in the course of Siam's wider history.

Share

COinS