“Not Here to Steal Sheep”: A Reading of the History and Politics of Catholicism in Thailand

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/

Abstract

This article investigates how Catholicism has had to evolve and adapt in order to sustain itself in Thailand. As Siam/Thailand developed through economic, political and cultural interactions with Western powers, Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular served as a site on which Thai national identity was forged in response to these interactions. Christianity was an ‘other’ against which Thai Buddhist identity coalesced yet the appeal of first Catholic and later Protestant missionary education was very strong. This article combines interpretive historical method and analysis of contemporary shifts that reflect a more assertive Thai Catholic Church. In so doing, the article offers a new reading of the place of Catholicism as a minority religion that is both aware of the risks of overtly challenging Buddhist nationalism and also confident of its place within the Thai cultural imaginary and the global Catholic networks across Asia. 


Keywords

Buddhist nationalism, Catholic Church in Thailand, Catholicism as minority religion, Catholicism in Asia, foreignness in Thai history, Religion and Politics in Southeast Asia

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)