On April 5, 1951, Ethel Rosenberg was sentenced to death for allegedly conspiring to commit espionage and sell US atomic information to the Soviet Union. On August 28, 2009, Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for allegedly insulting the royal family of Thailand. By bringing the suffering and courageous actions of these two women into conversation across time and space, the nature of national crisis and the impossibility of loyal dissent in the Cold War United States and late reign Rama IX Thailand are refracted and made acutely visible. Taking the disjuncture between the severity of the charges and the paucity of the evidence presented as a point of departure, this article interrogates the legal instruments under which Ethel Rosenberg and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul were charged, namely the US Espionage Act of 1917 and Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code; the logic of the courts which convicted them; and the public discourse surrounding both trials. Developing sedition as a lens of comparison and a strategy of analysis, their actions are examined as transgressive in three intersecting and overlapping registers: law, dissent in excess of the law, and gender performance. A fourth register of sedition—scholarly work that aims to be seditious—offers the possibility of challenging the strictures of crisis in which dehumanizing and disproportionate punishment, such as that experienced by Ethel Rosenberg and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, becomes possible.
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Tyrell Haberkorn; Engendering Sedition: Ethel Rosenberg, Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, and the Courage of Refusal. positions 1 August 2016; 24 (3): 621–651. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-3618188
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