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Ref ID: 27940
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Easum, Taylor M.
Title: Imagining the 'Laos Mission': on the usage of 'Lao' in northern Siam and beyond
Date: 2015
Source: Journal of Lao Studies
Abstract: The wide application and flexibility of the term ‘Lao’ in inland mainland Southeast Asia is well-known. The ethnonym has been applied to groups in countries neighboring modern Laos, and especially in Thailand’s northeast. The term was widely applied in Thailand’s north as well, however, until an abrupt change in the early twentieth century, after which the term fell out of favor among local and expatriate elites in the region. This essay examines the complex life of the term ‘Lao’ in northern Thailand/Siam. The American Presbyterian Mission (APM) in Siam’s north was founded as the ‘Laos Mission,’ using the term in contradistinction to the ‘Siam Mission’ based in Bangkok. As the mission expanded its presence to Phrae and Nan, cities with a close connection to Lao states such as Luang Phrabang, key missionaries also promoted the term ‘Lao’ to fuel aspirations for a regionwide mass conversion. However, Bangkok began to see the term ‘Lao’ as an obstacle to Thai nationalism, and so the APM gradually shifted away from promoting a distinct ‘Lao’ identity, and toward the policies of Bangkok, aimed at making ‘Lao’ into ‘Siamese.’ Though the APM in northern Thailand/Siam eventually aided and abetted the extension of Siamese power in mainland Southeast Asia, there was a historical moment in which the American missionaries envisioned and promoted a very different notion of ‘Lao’ in Southeast Asia.
Date Created: 4/14/2015
Page Start: 6
Page End: 23