Across the twelve coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932 in Thailand, the rulers and the ruled have struggled over what form the polity should take. This struggle has reached a crisis during the past decade with a royal transition and a record number of lèse majesté prosecutions for such crimes as performing plays, writing graffiti in bathrooms, and making Facebook posts. State repression has come to seen total, yet there has been a simultaneous emergence of prison writing composed and disseminated despite significant constriction of freedom of expression. Drawing on memoir, fables, and dissident court declarations, I trace how the writing that slips across the bars of the prison cells challenges authoritarian rule, critiques politics as usual, and imagines a different, future Thai society.
Tyrell Haberkorn is an Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison She writes about state violence and dissident cultural politics in Thailand. She is the author of Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law and Violence in Northern Thailand (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011) and In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018). Her essays and translations have appeared in Critical Asian Studies, positions: asia cultures critique, Dissent, Foreign Affairs, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Prachatai.
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