ASAA Mid-Career Book Prize Past Winners

ASAA Mid-Career Book Prize Past Winners

2022 – Associate Professor Patrick Jory from the University of Queensland for the book A History of Manners and Civility in Thailand, Cambridge University Press, 2021.

ASAA President Professor Katharine McGregor would like to thank the three judges for their generosity in serving on the prize selection committee: Associate Professor David Hundt (Deakin), Professor Kathy Robinson (ANU) and Dr Arjun (Murdoch University).

The judges provided the following citation for the winning book.

A history of manners and civility in Thailand is the product of deep and wide research. Dr Patrick Jory’s extensive training and knowledge as an historian of Southeast Asia are well evidenced in this fascinating retelling of Thailand’s modernisation. His ease and familiarity with Thai-language sources, including the government’s official manuals on ‘manners’, has enabled him to bring to life these sources in a compelling account of how state elites engineered Thailand’s social transformation since the late 19th century. The author makes judicious choices about his analytical approach, deftly drawing on anthropological and sociological insights to explain the role that manners have played in Thailand’s ‘civilising’ process.

Dr Jory sees manners as a crucial element of what Bourdieu refers to as habitus, or the embodiment of social rank and position in everyday life. In this view, habitus is a force that governs social behaviour. If the author uses Bourdieu to gain one form of purchase on the notion of manners, he gives us a second one via Elias’ concept of the ‘civilising process’, or the suggestion that social graces and hierarchies evolve in accordance with certain identifiable patterns over time. With these insights as his guide, Dr Jory contextualises Thailand’s development of a specific culture of manners beginning in the late 19th century. In his retelling, Thai elites’ inculcation of a local form of habitus was a conscious attempt to present Siam as a well-mannered, cultured society that satisfied the ‘standard of civilisation’ that had been unilaterally imposed by the Western powers. Successive regimes, he illustrates, have similarly harnessed the social power of manners to present a positive, refined image of Thailand to the outside world while using the notion of manners to reinforce their domestic political authority.

The book’s bottom-up, inside-out account of Thailand’s modernisation situates the locus of change firmly inside the country itself, while placing due weight on the international context. As such, readers might readily imagine comparable processes playing out in other countries. Indeed, Dr Jory’s fresh approach shows that the social history of the modern subject in the Global South is not a mere story of a ‘provincialised Europe’, but part of a recognisably universal socio-cultural movement of manners and habits. As befits a book written by an experienced scholar, Dr Jory’s A history of manners and civility in Thailand has great inter-disciplinary and cross-national appeal. It deserves to be read widely.

2020 – Susie Protschky, Photographic Subjects: Monarchy and Visual Culture in Colonial Indonesia (Manchester University Press, 2019)