I have received a call for research proposals from the Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre on the topic of Culture and Rights in Thailand. Full details here.

Over the past two decades, having a right to culture has become enshrined in a number of international instruments. These instruments encourage nation-states to recognize the intrinsic value of cultural diversity and promote the idea of the “collective” or “group” rights of minority and indigenous populations.

One outcome of this expansion of rights discourse has been the increase of “culturalist” claims made by groups at the sub-national level, invoking ideas of a distinctive way of life based upon language, tradition, locality, race, ethnicity or religion. This concept of culture can form the basis of a group’s claims to land, environmental protection, political autonomy, employment, and the repatriation of traditional cultural resources, all of which are topics that might be addressed in the proposals.

We request that research proposals consider how these issues play out in Thailand. For example, how is the concept of cultural rights defined and understood in Thailand? Who “owns” and/or controls cultural heritage, and through what mechanisms? Which groups are using the discourse of cultural rights to stake claims and why? Who benefits from this or that version of culture, tradition or community? How does cultural rights discourse essentialize identities that are in reality complex, varied, and unstable?