Winners of the 2022 ASAA Early and Mid-Career Book Prizes

Winners of the 2022 ASAA Early and Mid-Career Book Prizes

ASAA president Professor Katharine McGregor announces the winners:

I am delighted to announce in my capacity as President of the ASAA the winners of our 2022 early career and mid-career book prizes. This is the second round of these wonderful prizes which are a major boost for our field. Many congratulations to the two winners and thanks also to all who entered their books for consideration. We had a very high standard of entries which is a great reflection on the quality of Australian scholarship on Asia.

The winner of the 2022 Early Career book prize is Dr Aim Sinpeng from the University of Sydney for the book Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age: The Yellow Shirts in Thailand, University of Michigan Press, 2021

I would like to thank the three judges for their generosity in serving on the prize selection committee: Professor Li Narangoa (ANU), Associate Professor Susie Protschky (Deakin) and Dr Yu Tao (UWA).

The judges provided the following citation for the winning book:

In Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age, Aim Sinpeng asks big questions that matter greatly to contemporary Asia and the world: How and why do people in democracies oppose democracy? Does social media facilitate democratic collapse? This winning book undertakes a close examination of the rise of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), or ‘yellow shirts’, in Thailand – the most Facebook-saturated country in the world – between 2005 and 2014. Using an approach that combines political theory, historical contextualisation, and quantitative as well as qualitative analysis of social media networks and activity, this book provides a well-written and persuasive account of the collapse of one of Southeast Asia’s oldest democracies. Through well-structured arguments, it offers profound insight into digital media’s democratic and anti-democratic potential.

The judges are impressed by the quality and richness of the original information presented in the book, which provides a detailed and dynamic picture of the contentious politics in contemporary Thailand. Moreover, Sinpeng’s study contributes significantly to knowledge about contemporary anti-democratic movements, one that deserves to resonate not just across but well beyond the field of Asian Studies. This book exemplifies how Asian Studies scholarship can simultaneously deepen the understanding of Asia and Asian countries and engage in critical theoretical debates in various academic disciplines. Accordingly, the judges believe this book appeals to a broad readership, from area specialists in Thai and Southeast Asian politics to political sociology theorists, from professional academic researchers to interested members of the public. The judges are pleased to see the emergence of inspiring scholarship, as demonstrated by Sinpeng’s book, among Australia-based early-career researchers in Asian studies.

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

A History of Manners and Civility in Thailand | Zookal Textbooks | Zookal Textbooks

I 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.

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