Muay Thai: Inventing Tradition for a National Symbol
- Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 29, Number 3, November 2014
- pp. 509-553
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Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and one of its major cultural exports. Scholars have paid little attention to Muay Thai in its role as national sport or to the cultural politicking that attends it. As Muay Thai becomes increasing popular internationally, conservative proponents of the sport in Thailand are reifying its history and inventing tradition to ensure that its Thai cultural trappings are not eroded. On the basis of a slim set of historical references, several Thai institutions — including government ministries and universities — characterize muay as an integral part of royalist national history, and concretize those characterizations in the form of museums, academic institutionalization and the registration of Muay Thai as intangible cultural heritage.