The Social and Political Lives of G. William Skinner and Chinese Society in Thailand


Sittithep Eaksittipong

in Alternative Representations of the Past: The Politics of History in Modern China (Ying-Kit Chan and Fei Chen, eds. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2020)

Publisher’s website

Watch video [Youtube] of Prof. Eaksittipong’s talk to the Cornell Southeast Asia Program on this book chapter (Nov. 2020)

Abstract: Aiming to look beyond nation-centric historiography, this chapter deploys a transnational perspective to explore the social and political lives of G. William Skinner and his classic, Chinese Society in Thailand, in American, Thai, and Chinese Academia. Unlike previous scholarship that tries to evaluate either the reliability of the book’s content or its argument on the assimilation of the Chinese in Thailand, this chapter explores the political and social aspects of the book and its author. It explores how the book became an authoritative text in the studies of overseas Chinese and its role in creating perceptions toward overseas Chinese, particularly the Chinese in Thailand during the Cold War. Furthermore, I trace the uses and circulation of the book and the knowledge that it creates in American, Thai, and Chinese academia to see how the book has created different meanings and played different roles among scholars. The chapter thus looks beyond territorial-bound China to shed light on historical representations of China expressed in the form of overseas Chinese representations during the Cold War.

About the author:  Sittithep Eaksittipong was a HYI-NUS Joint Doctoral Scholar from 2012-16.