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Moral Knowledge and its Enemies: Conspiracy and Kingship in Thailand

From: Anthropological Quarterly
Volume 86, Number 4, Fall 2013
pp. 1059-1086 | 10.1353/anq.2013.0052



In the past five years, Thailand has been beset by coup d’état, street violence, and most recently the devastating floods of 2011. Looming in the background is the failing health of the Thai monarch, that person who has been the most potent symbol of 20th century development for Thais. With these events has come increasing political paranoia. Since 2006, accusations of lèse-majesté have leapt nearly a thousand-fold, and royalist conspiracy theories draw links between all of Thailand’s ills and the plots of sources of power.

and see conspiracy theorizing as the questioning of hegemonic sources of knowledge rather than as alternative cosmologies. I draw connections between the problematizing of “truth” via conspiracy theory and Thai ideas of moral knowledge in the idiom of baaramii. Specifically, I see how conspiracy theories about the Thai monarch serve to question the idea of a truth which is self-evident.

Many of the conspiracy theories which I discuss here are highly charged in Thailand. Such conspiracy theories have in the past been used to justify the killing or imprisonment of political dissidents and others simply caught in the middle. Yet here, I seek to stand aside from issues of social justice for the moment and focus instead upon how notions of conspiracy become constructed and what function they serve at present in Thai society.

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