This essay is an exploration of one aspect of the politics of gender representation in Thailand, namely, how the portrayals of Siamese women in Thai popular histories form part of the present-day shaping of gender relations. I argue that moving in tandem with developments in academic historiography, popular history since the 1980s has become a battleground for cultural hegemony.

Hitherto the preserve of antiquarians, popular history has caught the interest of the emergent middle class, who are intent on inscribing their reading of the past on the Thai cultural landscape. Where gender relations are concerned, the middle class has worked out a modern rationale for the traditional view that women are subordinate to men. However, critical scholars, alert to what they see as the perpetuation of the historical subordination of women through the medium of popular history, have sought to stem the tide by addressing their critiques of the middle-class interpretations to a popular audience.

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