Several colleagues have encouraged me to blog the comments I made during the Handley panel at the International Conference on Thai Studies this past January 2008. One of three panels on the monarchy organised by Thongchai Winichakul, the panel, chaired by Michael Herzfeld, was called Critical Comments on Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles (Yale University Press 2006). Unlike most other panels at the conference, this one was billed as a roundtable discussion. The conference organisers did not require papers in advance for this panel. Each of the four panelists was to speak briefly, and a free-flowing discussion was to follow. Indeed, the four speakers (Nidhi Eoseewong, Annette Hamilton, Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian, and me) did not coordinate their remarks beforehand. To my knowledge, none of us knew what the others would say.
The remarks that follow are necessarily edited, in the sense that at the time of the conference I had no intention of making my comments available for a wider audience. I spoke from notes, sentence fragments as well as complete sentences, and marginal notes I made as others were speaking. In the order above, I spoke after Nidhi and Annette Hamilton, and before Ajarn Kobkua . During my own presentation I edited out some material in order to keep within the time allotted to each speaker. For the purposes of this blog, I have filled out the incomplete sentences, polished the translations, and included citations to the works I referred to. I have also included, as best I can recall, a few things I threw in while speaking that were not in my original notes. I have resisted the temptation to add new material. My objective was not to provide a tidy argument but to provoke questions and discussion.
Here is the text of my remarks: reynolds-on-handley.pdf