Special Seminar by Dr Patrick Jory on April 17th

Date &Time: 14:00-15:30, Wednesday 17th April 2019
Place: Tonan-tei (Room no. 201), on the 2nd floor of Inamori Foundation
Memorial building, CSEAS

Title: Manners and Civility in Thailand’s Civilizing Process

Speaker: Dr Patrick Jory, CSEAS Visiting Research Scholar from Faculty
of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland

Moderator: Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun, CSEAS, Kyoto University

In Thailand a remarkably high value is placed on the performance of good
manners. The Thai state has long been centrally concerned with the
question of conduct. Coups or changes of government are typically
followed by campaigns to enforce good behavior. Kings, aristocrats,
prime ministers, senior monks, active as well as retired army generals,
politicians, poets, novelists, educationalists and journalists have
produced a large corpus of literature that sets out precise models of
appropriate behaviour. It teaches such things as how to stand, walk,
sit, pay homage, prostrate oneself and crawl in the presence of
high-status people, sleep, eat, manage bodily functions, dress, pay
respect to superiors, deal with inferiors, socialize, use one’s time, as
well as how to work and play. These modes of conduct have been instilled
or enforced by families, the monastery, court society, and, in the
twentieth century, the state, through the education system, the
bureaucracy, and the mass media. The conceptualization of manners in
Thailand is also influenced by Theravada Buddhist doctrine about how to
master the self. Proper conduct is typically understood as covering
three fields of behaviour: bodily action (/kai/), speech (/waja/), and
one’s mental disposition (/jai/). The inculcation of good manners thus
has as its objective control of the whole person.

The concept of “Thai manners” suggests that such idealized conduct is a
transcendent element of Thai national identity. However, using the
approach to the history of manners in Western Europe made famous by the
sociologist Norbert Elias in his classic work, /The Civilizing Process/,
I will show how the same factors are at work in the historical formation
of ideals of good conduct in Thailand. In studying the history of
manners and civility we may lift our attention about the everyday events
of politics to focus on more meaningful longer-term changes in Thai history.

Patrick Jory teaches Southeast Asian History at the School of
Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland.
His recent book, /Thailand’s Theory of Monarchy: //The Vessantara Jataka
and the Idea of the Perfect Man/ (SUNY Press, 2016) received a CHOICE
award for Outstanding Academic Title. He is currently Visiting Research
Scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.