Rice Outside the Paddy: The Form and Function of Hybridity in a Thai Novel

Rice Outside the Paddy: The Form and Function of Hybridity in a Thai Novel

Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Volume 11, Number 1 (1997)
pages 51-78

Jan R. Weisman

This paper examines some of the problematic issues of racial hybridity in contemporary Thailand through an analysis of the fictional portrayal of Thai hybrid individuals in the archetypical story, Khao Nok Na. I argue that the modern Thai treatment of hybridity—both fictional and real—privileges some forms over others as it 1) reflects Thai Buddhist concepts of the phenotypical expression of accumulated religious merit, 2) reflects and creates audience desire and anxiety as it reminds the nation of its actual, perceived, or feared loss of control over the course of its development and globalization, and 3) insists on Thai control of its various images as a means of  alleviating the anxieties so created.


Thai popular conceptions of hybridity—in particular, the genetic hybridity expressed in individuals of mixed Thai-Western ancestry—have undergone significant changes in recent decades. Eurasians occupied a neutral social category for much of Thai history. Their numbers were small; their parents were of high socioeconomic status; and their Thai lineage was usually a paternal connection. This situation changed dramatically with the influx of American military personnel into Thailand during the Vietnam War. Though the Thai government does not maintain records on the subject, it is estimated that as many as 7,000 Amerasian children…

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