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The Participatory We-Self: Ethnicity and Music in Northern Thailand.

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Title:The Participatory We-Self: Ethnicity and Music in Northern Thailand.
Authors:Fairfield, Benjamin S.
Contributors:Music (department)
Keywords:Northern Thailand
Participatory Music
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Date Issued:Aug 2017
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:The 20th century consolidation of Bangkok’s central rule over the northern Lanna kingdom and
its outliers significantly impacted and retrospectively continues to shape regional identities,
influencing not just khon mueang northerners but also ethnic highlanders including the Karen,
Akha, Lahu, and others. Scholars highlight the importance and emergence of northern Thai
“Lanna” identity and its fashioning via performance, specifically in relation to a modernizing and
encroaching central Thai state, yet northern-focused studies tend to grant highland groups only
cursory mention. Grounded in ethnographic field research on participatory musical application
and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of “flow”, this dissertation examines four case studies of
musical engagements in the north as it specifically relates to ethnic, political, and
autoethnographic positioning, narratives, and group formulation. In examining the inclusive and
exclusive participatory nature of musical expression within various ethnic and local
performances in the north, I show how identity construction and social synchrony, achieved via
“flow,” sit at the heart of debates over authenticity, continuity, and ethnic destiny. This
especially happens within and is complicated by the process of participatory musical traditions,
where Thongchai Winichakul’s “we-self” is felt, synchronized, distinguished, and imagined as
extending beyond the local performance in shared musical space across borders and through
time—even as the “other” is present and necessary for the distinguishing act of ethnic
formalization. Though wide-ranging differences persist among the many ethnic groups of the
north, they share a common resistance to central “Thainess” and construct this via participatory
musical engagement. Regional, local, indigenous, or ethnic identities here are thus formulated
through sanuk, the enjoyment of participation, a process of “flow” that enables strong emotional
bonds while also potentially exposing communities as fragile, ambiguous, and negotiable.
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2017.
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Music

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