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Recalling a Trans-local Past: Thailand’s Mon-language Manuscripts

The Mon people are usually associated with Burma, yet Burma has never been the only place where Mon-speaking communities have lived. Large numbers of Mon-language manuscripts are kept in the temples of the Thai-Mon community, living largely in the provinces surrounding Bangkok. Among these collections are numerous texts unknown in Burma. The Thai-Mon community represents the remnants of a once trans-local past. Mon speakers in past decades and centuries crossed what we now consider an international border as they took part in the circulation of texts, ideas and cultural forms, and trade. During the twentieth century, the Thai state promoted a single past and identity. Over time, this project effectively cut the Thai Mons off from their language and intellectual traditions. Few Thai Mons are literate in Mon today, so that the collections of texts, including religious teachings, literature, history, and astrology, languish unread and unvalued. I trace the history of the rise of Thai Mon communities, which one took part in the “Greater Burma Zone,” through their intellectual, cultural, religious, and intellectual traditions. The manuscripts still hold great value for the Mon community of Burma, which maintains an intellectual tradition in the language that is still very much alive. Visuals from recent work in Thai Mon temples will illustrate aspects of digitizing the manuscripts in hopes of encouraging others to become involved in preserving and promoting Thailand’s manuscript heritage.

About the speaker

Dr Patrick McCormick is a writer and academic researcher who has studied some of the languages and histories of Burma, where he lived for sixteen years before moving to Thailand. He has focused much of his time researching the Mon language and the writing of Mon history. He has received funding from the Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library to undertake the project on which his talk is based. All materials produced under this grant will be made available online, and accessible free of charge.


Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 19:00


Lecture Room, 4/Floor, The Siam Society


Members and Students (to undergraduate level) — Free of charge
Non-Members — THB 300

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