(Self-)Documentation of Thai Communities: Does the Western 'Community Archive' Movement Provide a Model?

Nasomtrug, K
(2017) (Self-)Documentation of Thai Communities: Does the Western 'Community Archive' Movement Provide a Model? Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Community archives, a phenomenon that developed out of the 1960s – 1970s civil rights and social justice movements, came to the attention of Western archival academia in the 1990s. Discussion of the phenomenon focused on relationships between the mainstream archives and the community practitioners and a range of subjects in archival studies. Despite the growth of the community archives movement in the context of post-colonial countries in the West, literature suggests that this particular concept has not been hitherto recognised by communities in Thailand. Therefore, this thesis seeks to examine this concept via the Western literature as the basis for further investigation of the community-based heritage activities of the four case studies in the North-eastern (Isan) communities in order to examine the commonalities and differences between the findings from the Western literature and the field research, to identify whether the theoretical and practical models of Western community archives are helpful and applicable to the Thai community heritage activities. The research used qualitative methodologies with a case study approach, including semi-structured interviews, observation, and photographic recording to gain data from the field research. Eighteen interviewees were recruited based on their relevant roles in the communities, including religious and spiritual leaders, members of communities that led or participated in heritage activities, an individual collector, and organisation founders, as well as visitors to the repositories and the audience at community public events. Discussion of research findings is divided into the three main themes that emerged from the field data: motivation, provenance and sustainability. The main conclusions drawn from this research are that, first, the Thai communities focus on saving their heritage from devaluation and neglect rather than trying to fill a perceived gap in mainstream collections, a motivation often found in the relationship between mainstream and community archives suggested by the Western literature. Second, members of communities relied heavily on their leaders and the study revealed the risk to the community archives of over-dependency on individuals; and, despite the evidence that community members had positive views on volunteering, the cooperation from volunteers was primarily driven by the dedication and commitment of the leaders. Third, tangible and intangible heritage in Thai community archives are intertwined and both form important elements in community memory and identity, which the community sees as valuable to preserve and pass on to future generations. Fourth, community archives that are accepted by the Thai community as being a good representation of their heritage tend to be established in community spaces, with the exception of a formal organisation where the space is separated from the communities being represented which, as a consequence, became rather disadvantageous for the organisation. Fifth, ethnic provenance plays a significant part in heritage documentation in Thai communities, especially in the Isan region, where there is a diversity of ethnicity and the majority share similar cultures across the borders with neighbouring countries. Lastly, community archiving practices in Thailand are shown to be affected by their cultural context. This research argues that there are sufficient commonalities between the Western literature and the research findings for each to inform the other. At the same time, the findings from the four case studies have offered some alternative perspectives which can further develop mainstream (and Western) professionals’ understanding of the range, variety and meaning of archival practices in a community context. It is possible to understand the Thai case studies as ‘community archives’ but care should be taken not to assume that they share all the same features as Western examples of the genre. Moreover, particular resonances in literature dealing with less ‘Westernised’ examples have been suggested by Western scholarship; nevertheless, it should be re-emphasised that care should be taken not to create an artificial binary of ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ community archives. Keywords: community archives, community-based archives, independent archives, Thai heritage activities, Thai community learning centre

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2017 07:51
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2024 17:21
DOI: 10.17638/03007659
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3007659