In the mountains of northern Thailand the constraints and restrictions placed upon 'hill tribe' people and their bodies are often counter-posed to a legendary past where people could move freely across borders, where refuge in the mountains represented freedom from oppressive state powers, and where highlanders could come down from the mountains and integrate. This paper explores how highland subjects have been transformed as the emergence of the Thai state has imposed concrete and regulated boundaries demarcating Thailand, and a Thai people. Building on historical narratives in which the freedoms of the past are counterpoised with the closely governed present, I present a more complex and contradictory picture of the national subjects in Thailand. I discuss the citizenship movement, in which activists have been fighting for citizenship status for highlanders through a strategy that seeks a place for highland people within hegemonic discourses of the nation-state and belonging. The citizenship movement establishes a new 'Thai hill tribe' subject position, formed in opposition to its constitutive outside the 'non-Thai hill tribe'. And as highlanders find new ways to fit with the hegemony of the nation-state, both more fixed and more mobile subject positions open up as Thai-ness and its 'others' are redefined.
|Journal||Social and Cultural Geography|
|Publication status||Published - 2005|