Markets, media and magic:Thailand's monarch as a 'virtual diety'

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    This study documents the growth of the discourse of 'god-king' (devaraja) around Thailand's King Bhumibol and explores how Brahmanical symbolisms of royal absolutism have acquired renewed potency alongside Buddhism as a basis of political legitimation in 21st century Thailand. Previous studies have interpreted the growing trend for Thailand's constitutional monarch to be represented as a 'demi-divine' 'virtual god-king' to reflect an ideological strategy set in train by mid-20th century authoritarian military rule. However, political processes alone do not account fully for the persistence and intensification of this phenomenon since the end of military dictatorship. The pre-modern discourse of 'god-king' has also been given new life by visual media and the spectralisa- tion of life under neoliberalism, which together produce a regime of representation that auraticises King Bhumibol. These technologies of enchantment have permitted emerging prosperity religions to be harnessed to a conservative nationalist agenda and, together with Thailand's strictly policed lese-majesty law, have institutionalised a commodified and mass-mediatised ideology of magico- divine royal power that works to legitimate King Bhumibol's acquisition of political influence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)361-380
    JournalInter-Asia Cultural Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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