The paradox of morality: The cultural force of emotion in Thai political conflict

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Abstract: After the political crisis of the last decade, the idea of Thai morality with the King as the center and symbol of legitimate power has faced more troubles from the new consciousness of many groups within Thai society. This new consciousness has appeared in the diversity of social sub-groups who joined with the Yellow Shirts, the Red Shirts and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee movement with their different desires, demands and thoughts. However, the problem lies in the illusion of Thai morality which occurred from the symbolic construction of meaning in Thai political culture. It has concealed and suppressed the diversity of thoughts and other moral decision values of many groups of people in society. Subsequently, Thai political conflicts and polarization demonstrated the struggle for power over moral values among several social sub-groups. This struggle is reflected in the differences of the cultural force of emotion, which refers to the intense feelings and experience of learning within the context of the subject’s position. This cultural force of emotion is linked to the diversification of social backgrounds in experiences, perceptions, emotions and classes of several social sub-groups inside the Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts. In this presentation, I will demonstrate the differences of cultural force of emotion among those joined the political protests of the Yellow Shirts and the Red Shirts from different capital cities of Thai regions including Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Bangkok and Hat Yai district in Songkhla. This data is drawn from my pre-survey data collection and fieldwork during May 2015 to March 2016. The comparison among them will reflect the diversity of thoughts, emotional experiences and moral values among the protestors. It will also show the complexity of conflicts within the seemingly binary conflicts between the Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts and the paradox of Thai morality.

About the Speaker: Thannapat Jarernpanit is a PhD. candidate in the Doctor of Philosophy in Social Science Program (International Program) at Chiang Mai University and Lecturer in the Political Science Program at Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University, Phitsanulok, Thailand. She holds an M.A. in Political Science (Government) from Thammasat University, Thailand and B.A. in Political Science (First Class Honors) from Chiang Mai University. Her doctoral thesis focuses on the challenge of morality and cultural forces of emotion in Thai political conflict and polarization between 2004 to 2014. Her research interests include Thai politics, political culture, political ecology and sociology and anthropology of emotions. Her recent publications include “Ghosts and Power: Through Ghosts Believing of Thai Song Dum, Tambon Pun Sao, Bang Ra Gum, Phitsanulok,” Ratchaphurek Journal 14/2 (2016) and “Application of the Participatory Public Policy Process in the Green University Development of Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University, Phitsanulok,” Journal of Environmental Management 11 /2 (2015).