Inside Thailand: Understanding the Nation's Political Evolution with Leslie Castro-Woodhouse

Inside Thailand: Understanding the Nation's Political Evolution with Leslie Castro-Woodhouse


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Millions of tourists visit Thailand every year, eager to experience the splendor of its Grand Palace, floating markets, luxury hotels, and amazing cuisine – often on a budget. But few travelers pause to take in the deep, layered histories which weave together to form the supporting fabric of this unique nation. Yet, there are questions outsiders may be afraid to ask: Can we still say Siamese? How did the communities of Siam unite to form Thailand?

Our conversation will discuss the early “mandala” states –– like Angkor and Sukhothai –– that provided the blueprint for Bangkok, and how Buddhist kings acted as both conquerors and religious renunciates. Together we'll trace the foundation of Bangkok and the emergence of the Royal Palace as its sacral center of the kingdom in the 1780s. Lastly, we'll learn how Siam remained independent while its neighbors –– Burma, Cambodia, and Laos –– fell to colonial domination, and what colonial echoes still reverberate in Thailand today.

In this course, Dr. Leslie Castro-Woodhouse, author of Woman Between Two Kingdoms: Dara Rasami and the Making of Modern Thailand, will guide us through the social and political history of Thailand’s rich culture and heritage. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with a deeper understanding of Thai culture and society, Buddhism and the significance of the monarchy, and the role of the palace in Thai politics and society from yesterday to today. 

For more in this series, we invite you to explore:

Dr. Castro-Woodhouse has studied Asian cultures and histories since her first visit to Thailand in 1987. After earning a master’s degree in Asian Studies in 2000, she went on to research Thai history and culture, landing a Fulbright IIE grant in 2004-05. Since completing her PhD in Asian History in 2009, she has taught at UC Berkeley and the University of San Francisco. She has published several articles on her research, and her first book, Woman between Two Kingdoms, will be published by Cornell University Press in May 2021.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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