Since the late 1990s Thai cinema has come to global attention with movies like the famous ghost film, Nang Nak, and more recently the evocative films of director Aphichatpong Weerasethakul, who won a Palme D’Or award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. A perennially popular theme in Thai cinema is that of haunting by a female ghost. In this unique, unusual book, Ghostly Desires: Queer Sexuality and Vernacular Buddhism in Contemporary Thai Cinema (Duke University Press, 2016), Arnika Fuhrmann hones in on this ghostly theme in contemporary Thai cinema to explore the subjects of female desire and queer sexuality. In doing so she raises questions about a central concept in Queer Theory: the nature of desire. Fuhrmann identifies a tension between Western liberal and everyday Thai Buddhist understandings of desire. Arguably, Buddhist teaching about desire is one factor that has contributed to Thailand’s reputation for being a “queer-friendly” country. Indeed, it is even marketed as a “gay paradise”. But the reality is not quite so simple, especially for women in same-sex relationships. Fuhrmann’s Ghostly Desires also addresses the issue of the subtle regulation of heteronormative sexuality, “Thai-style”.
Listeners to this episode might also enjoy listening to:
- Justin Thomas McDaniel, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand (Columbia University Press, 2011)
- Martin Joseph Ponce, Beyond the Nation: Diasporic Filipino Literature and Queer Reading (NYU Press, 2012)
Patrick Jory teaches Southeast Asian History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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