Nationalist Discourses in Thai Language Textbooks

Bavo Stevens, McGill University/Ubon Ratchathani University; Atchara Simlee, Ubon Ratchathani University


Community, Education, and Democracy


Schools and textbooks have long been recognized as crucial to state building and the formation of national identity. This paper examines how the state and its agents shape nationalist discourse in Thai language textbooks. While previous papers have explored how the Thai government shapes nationalist discourses through history and civics textbook, and how schools are structured to orient children towards the state, this paper focuses on how the stories in Thai language textbooks reinforce a royalist national identity that emphasizes the kwampenthai or Thai-ness, of unified and virtuous citizens. Using critical discourse analysis, this paper examines the short stories and poems at the start of every chapter in Thai language textbooks at the elementary school-level (Prathom 1 to 6). We find that while these stories teach children vocabulary about topics ranging from nutrition to the Olympics, the stories also orient students towards accepting state authority. Although the stories centre on the activities of children, it is adults, and frequently teachers, that provide resolution to their central conflicts. These adults are the moral and paternalistic centers of the stories, emphasizing the importance of cooperation, harmony, and obedience. Furthermore, stories frequently take place in idyllic rural communities, where villagers live simple but pleasant agriculture lives, harking back royalist nationalist narratives of sufficiency and living within ones means. inscribed.

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