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A "foreign" princess in the Siamese court: Princess Dara Rasami, the politics of gender and ethnic difference in nineteenth-century Siam

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Leslie Ann Woodhouse
Abstract:
The reign of Siam's King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) is possibly the best-studied period in Thai history: a watershed era when Siam undertook its transformation from kingdom to nation-state within a context of intense European imperialist competition in Southeast Asia. Yet the roles played by women in this period - particularly the women of the Siamese palace - remain largely unexamined. The deployment of a patriarchal dynastic model in Thai historiography, as well as an Orientalist tendency to exoticize it as a "harem," discount Siam's all-female "Inner Palace" as a purely domestic space and thus outside the arena of legitimate political activity. This project aims to restore the domestic arena of Siam's Inner Palace to our understanding of traditional Siamese power structures. It does so by focusing on the life of a woman who functions as the exception that proves the rule: a "foreign" consort named Chao (Princess) Dara Rasami, who came to the Siamese court from the neighboring kingdom of Lan Na in the mid-1880s. Using her nearly thirty-year career as a royal consort as a lens for looking into the lifeways of the Inner Palace, I examine the crucial political and social roles played by consorts in the Siamese palace. As an ethnically different woman from a neighboring kingdom, Dara herself acted in two important capacities. Firstly, Dara Rasami functioned as both a hostage and a diplomat for her home kingdom in Chiang Mai, ultimately earning a somewhat higher status for her home region under Siamese rule. Secondly, as a representative of cultural difference within the palace, Dara's performance of Chiang Mai identity was encouraged as part of Siam's "modern" discourse of "siwilai," or a hierarchy of civilizations of which Siamese culture was seen as the pinnacle. As such, Dara Rasami's story provides a fresh perspective on both the socio-political roles played by Siamese palace women, and Siam's responses to the intense imperialist pressures it faced in the late nineteenth century.

Table of Contents Dedication.......................................................................................................................................iii Acknowledgments........................................................................................................................iv Notes on Transliteration and Translation...........................................................................viii Abbreviations Used for Archival Sources................................................................................x

Chapter 1. Introduction..............................................................................................................p. 1 1.1 Tracing Thai Historiography and Re-Orienting Thai History .....................................3 a. Women in the Historiography of Thailand................................................................3 b. The Siamese Palace in Thai Literature and Historiography.....................................9 c. Historiography of Lan Na and Thai History............................................................11 1.2 Materials, Methods and Approaches..............................................................................15 1.3 Chapter Themes and Arguments....................................................................................17 Appendix 1: Glossary of Frequently-Used Thai Terms....................................................22

Chapter 2. Constituting Lan Na: Environment, Culture and History.................................. 24 2.1 Environmental and Cultural Background of Lan Na...................................................26 a. Founding Figures and Family Rule............................................................................29 2.2 Rebuilding Lan Na’s Population and Economy: 1775-1850......................................33 a. Chao Chet Ton: Reviving Familial Alliance and Inventing the Khon Muang........37 b. The Structure of Lan Na Rulership in the Early Nineteenth Century.................42 2.3 Shifting Economies, Shifting Allegiances: Mid-Nineteenth Century Lan Na..........47 a. Siamese Intervention Gone Wrong: The Chiang Tung Wars, 1848-51...............52 b. The 1850s, Continued: Rumors of Lan Na Overtures to the Burmese...............56 c. The 1873 Chiang Mai Treaty: Undermining Traditional Relationships...............58 d. What Went Wrong: Or, Siam’s Need for A Second Chiang Mai Treaty.............64 2.4 Lan Na’s Elite Women and Agency: Thipkraisorn and Ubonwanna........................67 2.5 Dara Rasami, Rumors and Realigning Allegiances.......................................................73 Appendix 2: Kings of Lan Na’s Chao Chet Ton Dynasty.........................................78 Illustrations ............................................................................................................................79

Chapter 3. Into the Palace: Space, Gender and Status in the Siamese Palace......................80 3.1 Binding the Kingdom Via the Circulation of Bodies, Male and Female...................85 3.2 Space, Status and Circulation in the Siamese Palace....................................................93 a. Residence and Status in the Palace............................................................................96 3.3 The Fundamentals of Life in the Inner Palace...........................................................100 a. Food and Supplies......................................................................................................100 b. Water and Hygiene.....................................................................................................101 c. Sex and Reproduction................................................................................................103

ii d. Illness and Death........................................................................................................105 e. Death and the Disposition of Remains...................................................................106 f. Entertainment and Amusements..............................................................................107 g. Male Bodies in the Inner Palace...............................................................................108 3.4 The Palace as a Cultural Crucible.................................................................................110 3.5 Language, Loyalty and the Politics of the Personal in The Siamese Court............120 3.6 Transgression and Punishment in the Inner Palace...................................................130 3.7 Conclusion.......................................................................................................................135 Appendix 3: Kings of Siam’s Chakri Dynasty.............................................................138 Illustrations...........................................................................................................................139

Chapter 4. Dara Rasami and Performing Lan Na Identity in the Siamese Court..............144 4.1 Royal Circulations: Moving the Siamese Court in the Early Twentieth Century...146 4.2 Performing Ethnicity: Sartorial and Bodily Expressions (and Consumptions).....151 a. Textile Traditions of Lan Na....................................................................................151 b. Siamese Court Textiles and Dress...........................................................................159 c. Dara Rasami and Ethnic Difference within the Siamese Court..........................165 d. Dara Rasami and Making Lan Na Dress Siwilai....................................................170 4.3 Drama and Performing Difference within Siamese Siwilai.......................................173 a. Siamese Dance-Drama during the Fifth Reign (1878-1910)................................174 b. Dara Rasami’s Musical and Dramatic Interests.....................................................177 c. Domesticating Siam’s Peripheries through Lakhon Rong Drama.........................184 4.4 Diplomatic Gestures: Deploying Dara Rasami’s Ethnic Difference ......................187 a. Dara Rasami as a Colonial Proxy: The 1906 Visit of a Shan Princess................187 b. Deploying Northern-ness: Dara Washes the King’s Feet with Her Hair..........190 4.5 Dara Rasami: “Self-Orientalizing” or Strategically Essentializing?..........................196 Illustrations ..........................................................................................................................199

Chapter 5. Dara Rasami Returns to Chiang Mai: An Outsider at Home............................231 5.1 Dara Rasami’s Last Years at Suan Dusit and Return to Chiang Mai......................232 5.2 Dara Rasami’s Later Life and Role in Chiang Mai’s Contemporary Memory.......239 5.3 After Dara Rasami: The Decline and Fall of Palace Women in Siam....................242 5.4 Opportunities for Further Research............................................................................245 5.5 Concluding Remarks......................................................................................................246 Illustrations...........................................................................................................................248

Bibliography Archives Consulted...............................................................................................................254 English-Language Sources....................................................................................................255 Thai-Language Sources.........................................................................................................269

iii

Dedication

for David, with love and gratitude

and for Warunee – khien sanuk!

iv Acknowledgments

Every dissertation is a product of years of research, thinking and writing which would not have been possible without the support of a host of people and institutions – and this dissertation is no exception. If anything, I owe a nearly double debt to my supporters, as this project came together only after two years’ fruitless work on another topic before I stumbled upon Chao Dara Rasami. There are accordingly a few people to whom I owe special thanks for their academic and moral support over the years. First and foremost, I would like to thank my advisor, Peter Zinoman. Without his advice, feedback and support, I might never have successfully navigated the circuitous process that ultimately brought me to this topic. Peter’s support has been backed up by that of Berkeley’s Department of History and Graduate Division, whose financial and moral support over the course of my graduate education have been invaluable (particularly their recent grants in support of my foreign travel and research). I also thank Mabel Lee, Graduate Assistant to the Department of History, for her professionalism and unflagging cheer in helping me clear innumerable administrative hurdles over the past several years. At Berkeley, a number of professors inside and outside the History department have aided in my progress. I must thank my first Ajaan at Berkeley, Susan Kepner, for first introducing me to Thai language and culture, and her generous feedback on my endeavors over the course of my Berkeley career. To Professors David Hollinger, Gene Irschick and Wen-Shin Yeh, I thank you for your kind counsel and periodic encouragement, even though I was not one of your advisees. Andrew Barshay has supported my endeavors since I began my graduate studies as a master’s student in the Asian Studies program, and has long assisted me in thinking through the similarities and differences between the

v “modern” monarchies of Thailand and Japan. A special thanks goes to Penny Edwards, who was a late addition to my dissertation committee. Penny went well above and beyond the call of duty expected of an “outside” committee member, acting as a sort of surrogate advisor to me while mine was abroad this past year. Her thoughtful comments and suggestions have greatly improved my chapters. Penny, I can’t thank you enough for taking me on, and for taking your membership on my committee so seriously. A number of colleagues in the extended academic community have also assisted me in the development of my project. Thanks firstly to Ajaan Thongchai Winichakul, for referring me to Ajaan Warunee Osatharom, who later became my Thai mentor. My thanks also to Craig Reynolds, who provided feedback and encouragement on early drafts. I also thank Mike Montesano for applying his understanding of Thai culture and politics to a critical read of my chapters. Thanks also to Volker Grabowsky, who kindly referred me to his student Ratana (Jaeng) Pakdeekul in Chiang Mai. A number of Thai institutions and individuals also deserve credit for their assistance in my research. Miss Pannee Panyawtthanaporn and Yada Sommarat of the National Research Council of Thailand generously assisted me in gaining permission to use both the National Archives and the restricted-access archive of the Royal Secretariat. I appreciate the warm welcome given me at the Thai Khadi Institute by former director Ajaan Piriya Krailerk, and for the continuing consideration of Ajaan Anucha Thirakanont, the Institute’s current director. The wonderful people at TUSEF Thailand helped me settle in during my Fulbright year (2004-05), especially Miss Siriporn, Miss Wanida, and director Ms. Pornthip Kanjaniyayot. At the Thai National Archives in Bangkok, Miss Butsyalek and Miss Phanawan provided excellent direction and advice, as did Miss Jantorn in the

vi photographic collections office. Many thanks also to Mrs. Chumsri Wongwirachai, the head archivist of the Royal Secretariat, and her assistant, Miss Balima, for their assistance in accessing the Royal Archive’s materials related to Dara Rasami. Thanks also to Ajaan Tej Bunnag, for his kind efforts to expedite my permissions to the Royal Archive in the summer of 2007. My research assistant, Miss Daruni Somsri, gave invaluable help in translating handwritten Thai documents into readable form, and providing insights from her own research into Chiang Mai’s history. Last but not least, my deepest thanks to my Thai mentor, Ajaan Warunee Osatharom of the Thai Khadi Institute at Thammasat University. Though her intimate knowledge of the Thai archives make her a tremendous resource, her sense of humor and compassion that make her a great mentor whose friendship I treasure. In Chiang Mai, Ajaan Kreuk Akornchinaret and Ajaan Aroonrut Wichienkieeow both provided invaluable information and resources that opened up new perspectives on Dara Rasami’s place in local history and memory. Ever since I was her student in the 2006 AST (Advanced Study of Thai) program, my ajaan thi brueksa, Miss Unchalee Sermsongsawad, has continued to give generously of her time and friendship every time I have visited Chiang Mai. I also thank Ajaan Ratanaporn Settrakul of Payap University for her support of my topic and her encyclopedic knowledge of northern history, and her introduction to the staff of Payap University library’s Northern Thai collections. I also thank Miss Tum, director of the Chiang Mai branch of the National Archives, who personally squired me around Chiang Mai to gather data on the history of Dara Academy. A special thanks to the aforementioned Ratana (Jaeng) Pakdeekul, who is herself a graduate student researching historical gender roles in Laos and Lan Na. In addition to

vii conducting a bit of oral history concerning Dara Rasami’s links to her own family members, Jaeng also connected me with several key people in Chiang Mai, and gave generously of her own knowledge of local Chiang Mai culture. Jaeng, I hope your dissertation is progressing well, and that we will work together again soon. I must express my deep appreciation of my wonderful Thai friends and teachers, whose friendship and support have made all the difference. Special thanks go to my “monkey sisters,” Khun Phonthip (Fulbright), and Thitiwan (Pao) Lertphiya, who made me feel at home in Bangkok during my Fulbright year (2004-05). My SEASSI ajaan, Janpanit Surasin, has since also become a true friend with whom I have exchanged many new insights into both Thai and American culture. Lastly, I thank the friends and family members who have provided such tremendous emotional and moral support over the past few years. I especially recognize the friendship and support of Laurie Ross, Martina Nguyen, Marady Hill, and Lisa Tateosian, without whom these past two challenging years would have been a lot less bearable. Thanks to my father-in-law, Ray Lucas, for long chats about my topic and close reads of my chapters. I thank Sato for her quiet companionship and calming presence. Lastly, to my husband David, who also lent his computer skills to the creation of many of my maps and illustrations, goes my deepest appreciation for his love, support and seemingly limitless patience.

viii Notes on Transliteration All translations from Thai sources are my own unless otherwise noted. I use a slightly modified version of the ALA-Library of Congress rules for the Romanization of Thai orthography into English, outlined in the table below. Within the body of the main text, I have transliterated all Thai terms. However, where Thai-language texts are cited in footnotes, I provide the first reference (and bibliographic entry) in Thai script, for the greater convenience of subsequent Thai scholars. Vernacular Romanization Romanization character when initial or medial: when final:

 k k , ,  kh kh  ng ng  ch t ,  ch t

,  y n , ,  d t , t t , , , ,  th t ,  n n  b p  p p , ,  ph p ,  f p  m m r n ", ) l n $ w w ,  , %, &, ' s t * oh oh (, + h n/a

ix Vowel Romanization Vowel Romanization

*,, *-....................................................a 9*, :*, *-, :*, *......................ai *.........................................................a 6*., *.$.........................................ao */.....................................................am *4 ..................................................ui *0, *1....................................................ee 8*, **.......................................oi *2, *3....................................................ue 6*...............................................oei *4, *5...................................................oo 6*3*............................................ueai 6*,, 6*;, 6*..........................................e *$...............................................uai 7*,, 7*;, 7*.....................................ae *0 $...................................................iu 8*,, *, 8*, 6*.,, **..........................o 6*; $, 6*$........................................eo 6**,, 6**, 6*0 ...................................oe 7*$.............................................aew 6* 1,, 6*1 , ..................................ia, iya 6*1$..........................................ieow 6*3*,, 6*3*........................................uea !.....................................................ry *- $,, *- $, $.........................................ua #......................................................ly

Adapted from the American Library Association/Library of Congress Romanization Tables, 1997 Edition: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/roman.html

x A BBREVIATIONS USED FOR A RCHIVAL S OURCES : N.A.T. National Archives of Thailand ((*(.6(; 4 7(.), Bangkok N.L.T. National Library of Thailand ((< *'4 7(.), Bangkok S.R.L. Archive of the Royal Secretariat ('/-  .6".0 . ), Bangkok B.N.A. British National Archives, Kew, U.K. F.O. Foreign Office Records (subset of the B.N.A. or B.L.) B.L. British Library, London, U.K. L/P.&S. Political & Secret Documents (subset of B.L./F.O. documents)

Woodhouse Chapter 1

Page 1 Chapter 1. Introduction “A gender-oriented study should do more than put women into history. It should also throw light on the history – male as well as female – into which women are put…” – O.W. Wolters 1

This dissertation concerns the life of an ethnically non-Siamese woman who became a consort of the Siamese king from the late nineteenth- to early-twentieth centuries. This topic is significant for several reasons. Firstly, there is little scholarship that acknowledges – let alone focuses upon – the polygynous system of marital alliance that formed a major part of Siam’s political landscape until 1925. Secondly, Dara Rasami’s story demonstrates the centrality of the Siamese palace as an intersection of personal and regional politics in pre-modern Siam. As suggested by the Wolters quote above, this topic promises to shed new light upon an otherwise well-studied period of Siamese history, fleshing out the social contours of a heretofore two-dimensional historical picture composed solely of political and economic dimensions. The focus of this study is princess Dara Rasami, daughter of the king and queen of Lan Na, a tributary – but sovereign – kingdom ruled from Chiang Mai, today part of northern Thailand. From the mid-1880s to 1910, as the British moved into northern Burma, and the French into the upper Mekong region of Laos, Dara Rasami provided crucial political linkage between Siam and Lan Na. As such, her early career within Siam’s ‘Inner Palace’ embodied the function of provincial consorts as both diplomats and hostages to the Siamese king. Later on, after political tensions between Siam and Lan Na

1 Wolters, Oliver W. History, Culture, and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives. Revised Edition. Ithaca, N.Y.: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1999, 229.

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Page 2 had been settled through Siam’s implementation of a centralized administrative system, Dara Rasami’s role in palace politics shifted from political hostage to cultural informant. Through her participation in palace dance-drama, Dara Rasami performed a significant role as an “Other within” as part of siwilai, or a Siamized hierarchy of civilizations, in the final years of the Fifth Reign in the early twentieth century. As such, Dara is a unique figure who provides an intimate window into the ways in which Siamese elites reconciled traditional political practices and family alliances with Western notions of modern statecraft and ethnic identity in the late nineteenth century. This study is not, strictly speaking, a biography. The details of Dara Rasami’s life have already been well-documented in a handful of Thai-language sources. 2 Rather, I propose to examine her life in the larger context of Siamese and Lan Na history, in order to illuminate new facets of the political and social history of Siam’s Fifth Reign era. Here, particular events from Dara Rasami’s life and career will function as lenses through which to critically re-assess the intersection of several seemingly disparate historical strands. These include the history of gender in Siam and mainland Southeast Asia, and the roles of consorts both foreign and domestic in Siamese politics; the contingent political fortunes of Siam and its neighboring polities, and the European colonial aspirations in the region which threatened them; the shaping of “modern” notions of Siamese identity and ethnic difference; and also the relationship of changing attitudes about royal polygamy to the

2 See Nongyao Kachanachari’s        

 [Dara Rasami: Biography of Chao Dara Rasami] (1990); Saengdao na Chiang Mai’s    

     [Biography of Phra Rajajaya Chao Dara Rasami](1974); and Chao Gaew Nowarat’s    

    [Phra Brawat Phra Rajajaya Chao Dara Rasami] (1934), the funerary volume published in conjunction with Dara Rasami’s cremation. Though these sources present Dara Rasami’s biography in copious detail, they do not offer critical assessment or interpretation of the events.

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Page 3 political fortunes of Siamese women in contemporary Thai society. As the focal point of these intersections, Dara Rasami’s life and career illuminate new aspects of these well- studied – but heretofore incomplete – histories.

1.1 Tracing Thai Historiography and Re-Orienting Thai History 1.1a. Women in the Historiography of Thailand Modern Thai historiography was constructed by Siam’s royal elites on the model of nineteenth-century European histories which celebrated the nation-state. In this model of “modern” history, as Hong Lysa succinctly puts it: “The male-associated activities of building and defending the country against hostile neighbors and colonial threats dominated the historical narrative, in which women hardly featured at all.” 3 Ironically, many of these narratives are attributed to the “father of Siamese history,” Prince Damrong Rajanuphab, who was himself both a product and a practitioner of polygyny 4 . Though Damrong himself wrote biographical accounts of several royal consorts, his familiarity with the Western distaste for polygyny led him to studiously avoid focusing upon the institution of royal polygyny in his historical accounts of Siam the nation. Western historians continued the elision of polygyny from Siam’s political history in twentieth century scholarship. The seminal English-language political histories of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Siam focused largely on the activities of its “modernizing” monarchs: King Mongkut (Rama IV), his son Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and

3 Hong Lysa. “Palace Women At the Margins of Social Change: An Aspect of the Politics of Social History in the Reign of King Chulalongkorn.” Journal of Southeast Asian History 30, no. 2 (1999): 310-24. 4 Prince Damrong was one of King Chulalongkorn’s many half-brothers, and maintained a total of eleven wives and consorts in his household, ultimately producing thirty-three children. See Finestone (2000), particularly Chapter 12 on Damrong’s descendants, who share the surname “Diskul.”

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Page 4 grandson Vajiravudh (Rama VI). These works include David Wyatt’s 1969 The Politics of Reform in Thailand: Education in The Reign of King Chulalongkorn, Walter Vella’s Chaiyo! (1978), Tej Bunnag’s The Provincial Administration of Siam, 1892-1915: The Ministry of the Interior under Prince Damrong Rajanubhab (1977),

Steven Greene’s Absolute Dreams (1971, 1999), and Maurizio Peleggi’s Lords of Things (2002). Of these works, those that center on the reign of Chulalongkorn consider it as an era of modernization, examining it in terms of the systemic administrative changes undertaken by Chulalongkorn and his team of half-brother ministers. If royal women or consorts are mentioned in these works, it is in passing if at all. If, in the words of feminist historian Joan Scott “[p]olitical history has… been enacted on the field of gender,” 5 then these ostensibly political histories are missing a crucial element. Historians of this earlier generation may well have become suspicious of the topic of palace women by the lone precursor of such a history: Anna Leonowens. Her first book, The English Governess at the Siamese Court: Being Recollections of Six Years in the Royal Palace at Bangkok (1870), brought her literary fame in both England and the United States, even though whether she was indeed English or a governess has since been called into serious question. 6 Leonowens continued to capitalize on her unique experience in exotic erotic Siam: The Romance of the Harem (1872). In these texts, Leonowens plays upon the contemporary “hot button” issue of slavery to align her portrayal of the women of the Inner Palace with those of the decadent harems of India and Ottoman Turkey – already a

5 Scott, Joan Wallach. Gender and the Politics of History. Rev. ed. Gender and Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. 6 See Susan Morgan’s introduction to 1991 edition of The Romance of the Harem (ix – xxxix) or Morgan’s recent biography of Anna Leonowens, Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the King and I Governess. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

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Page 5 well-established and marketable genre by the 1870s. 7 In Leonowens’s Siamese harem, every woman was a slave, subject to the whims of a tyrannical and capricious king. The Thai objections to these works and their subsequent adaptations into film and musical forms 8

have led to their outright ban in Thailand. Whether out of distaste for Anna’s naked self- promotion, or for the alleged decadence and political illegitimacy of the Siamese harem, Western historians have avoided tracing Anna’s footsteps into Siam’s Inner Palace for more than a hundred years since her departure from Siam. When women finally began to become visible in scholarship on Thailand, it was typically outside the field of history. The feminist scholars who emerged in the later 1970s and ‘80s were more often anthropologists and sociologists focused on observing and evaluating Thai culture in the present, than historians examining the social constructions of the past. As was consistent with the Marxist-influenced thinking of the time, they tended to focus on non-elite women: rural and tribal women (Sulamith Heins-Potter, Family Life in a Northern Thai Village), spirit-mediums (Rosalind Morris, In Place of Origins: Modernity and its Mediums in Northern Thailand), factory workers (Sinith Sittirak, Daughters of Development), mothers and children (van Esterik, Women of Southeast Asia, 1982) or sex workers (Khin Thitsa, Providence and Prostitution: Image and Reality for Women in Buddhist Thailand; Cleo Odzer, Patpong Sisters). Ironically, elsewhere in Southeast Asian studies, historians have long recognized the value of examining gender in its historical social constructions. A shining example is Jean Gelman Taylor’s The Social World of Batavia (1983), which analyzed the

7 See Inderpal Grewal’s Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire, and the Cultures of Travel. Durham, [N.C.]: Duke University Press, 1996. 8 The well-known musical “The King and I” was adapted from Margaret Landon’s 1944 Anna and the King of Siam, a novelization of Leonowens’s “English Governess” text. Both the musical and all film versions have been banned in Thailand, including the 2000 film version starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat.

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Page 6 social and economic linkages provided to Dutch traders through their Javanese wives, producing a hybrid society within the confines of the walled trading city at Batavia. This work still stands out as an exemplar of social and gender history, and continues to inspire my own work. Unfortunately, it has no counterpart in Thai studies. Though much ink has been spent considering the various contemporary social roles of non-elite Thai women, very little scholarship has focused on how and when these roles were constructed, much less the relationship of womens’ contemporary political currency to the Siamese past, or the correlation of class or status to gender roles. In the late 1990s, historians Craig Reynolds and Hong Lysa recognized this critical absence in Thai scholarship, and the rich opportunities for research on the subject of palace women. In a 1999 article, Reynolds noted that “not even in the elitist historiography of the Thai elite has this, the most obvious topic in women’s history, been tackled.” 9 As if in response to Reynolds’s point, Lysa’s work in the late 1990s yielded two important articles on Siamese palace women. 10 In “Of Consorts and Harlots in Thai Popular History” (1998) Lysa takes on contemporary Thai interpretations of the nature of prostitution and concubinage in the past. Here she identifies a pronounced gender bias in contemporary Thai popular historical treatments of concubines and prostitutes, who are alternately romanticized and demonized in ways that elide how gender roles of the past were constructed. In the 1999 article “Palace Women at the Margins of Social Change: An Aspect of the Politics of Social History in the Reign of King Chulalongkorn,” Lysa

9 Originally entitled “Predicaments of Modem Thai History,” South East Asia Research 2,1 (1994): 76, Reynolds’ essay was reprinted as “Engendering Thai Historical Writing,” in Seditious Histories: Contesting Thai and Southeast Asian Pasts (2006), 122-140. 10 “Consorts and Harlots” was published in Journal of Asian Studies 57, No. 2 (1998): 333-53; “Palace Women at the Margins…” in the Journal of Southeast Asian History 30, no. 2 (1999): 310-24.

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Page 7 presents the stories of several Inner Palace women, both elite and non-elite, through court cases and legal documents, clearly demonstrating the significance of their stories to Thai social history. Lysa’s work marked the pathway I have followed into the social history of Siamese palace women. Following these interventions, the topic of gender and women has been embraced by historians of Thailand in recent years. A 2000 essay by Koizumi Junko introduced an analysis of gender in Thai legal categories in an article entitled “From A Water Buffalo to A Human Being: Women and The Family in Siamese History,” 11 a topic which was later developed by Tamara Loos (see below). More recently, Scot Barme’s Woman, Man, Bangkok (2002) analyzes how gender roles were debated and constructed in 1920s and ‘30s Bangkok. Barme’s narrative picks up where mine leaves off: just as the social acceptability of polygyny and palace women themselves are simultaneously disappearing from Siamese society. Perhaps the most important recent intervention in Thai historiography, however, is Tamara Loos’ Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand (2006). Here, finally, is a history of Thailand which focuses directly on gender, and provides a clear analysis of how gender categories were constructed over time through legal proceedings. Loos’ analysis of court cases concerning interactions between men and women expands on Koizumi’s work to explore the evolution of legal categories as they related to gender and family in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Siam. Her seminal work provides the necessary opening for further work on gender in nineteenth-century Siamese history – an opening without which my work might not exist.

11 See Andaya, Barbara Watson. Other Pasts: Women, Gender and History in Early Modern Southeast Asia. Honolulu: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawai'i at Mânoa, 2000.

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Page 8 The subject of this dissertation also contributes to the emergent genre of scholarship focusing on elite women. Not least of these are the texts working to re- examine Asian harems, such as Leslie Pierce’s work on women in Ottoman history, The Imperial Harem (1993), and more recently Ruby Lal’s Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World (2005). These and other histories have begun to tease out the social and political dynamics of these heretofore unseen and misunderstood feminine worlds, and their historical significance. This field is expanding to include cross-cultural considerations of palace women, such as the edited volume Servants of the Dynasty (2008), which includes essays on palace women from Asia, Europe, Central America and Africa. My work also adds to the growing body of historical scholarship specific to the arena of women and gender in Southeast Asia. This scholarship includes a few edited volumes of comparative work, such as Power & Difference: Gender in Island Southeast Asia (1990), Other Pasts:

Full document contains 292 pages
Abstract: The reign of Siam's King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) is possibly the best-studied period in Thai history: a watershed era when Siam undertook its transformation from kingdom to nation-state within a context of intense European imperialist competition in Southeast Asia. Yet the roles played by women in this period - particularly the women of the Siamese palace - remain largely unexamined. The deployment of a patriarchal dynastic model in Thai historiography, as well as an Orientalist tendency to exoticize it as a "harem," discount Siam's all-female "Inner Palace" as a purely domestic space and thus outside the arena of legitimate political activity. This project aims to restore the domestic arena of Siam's Inner Palace to our understanding of traditional Siamese power structures. It does so by focusing on the life of a woman who functions as the exception that proves the rule: a "foreign" consort named Chao (Princess) Dara Rasami, who came to the Siamese court from the neighboring kingdom of Lan Na in the mid-1880s. Using her nearly thirty-year career as a royal consort as a lens for looking into the lifeways of the Inner Palace, I examine the crucial political and social roles played by consorts in the Siamese palace. As an ethnically different woman from a neighboring kingdom, Dara herself acted in two important capacities. Firstly, Dara Rasami functioned as both a hostage and a diplomat for her home kingdom in Chiang Mai, ultimately earning a somewhat higher status for her home region under Siamese rule. Secondly, as a representative of cultural difference within the palace, Dara's performance of Chiang Mai identity was encouraged as part of Siam's "modern" discourse of "siwilai," or a hierarchy of civilizations of which Siamese culture was seen as the pinnacle. As such, Dara Rasami's story provides a fresh perspective on both the socio-political roles played by Siamese palace women, and Siam's responses to the intense imperialist pressures it faced in the late nineteenth century.