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Sisters of Isan: One Woman’s Journey on the Margins as the Kingdom of Thailand Prospers and Stumbles

Sisters of Isan traces a family in Sisaket back to the beginning of the 20th century and then explores the profound changes over the past 50 years. By the beginning of the 20th century, Lao people of the west of the Mekong River belonged to Siam while the east and the north remained parts of French Indochina. The grandmother was born in 1900 and then the mother was born in the 1930s. Wan got married to her husband and began raising a family in the 1960s. The birth of the second sister, Pon in 1971, is where the storyline of the sisters begins. At the age of 13, Pon migrated to the big city to join her sister. It was not long before she was on her own, seeking to survive and support her family. The narrative of the Sisaket family covers 50 years, shifting between rural and urban landscapes. Core cultural beliefs persist amidst profound social change during the shift from subsistence farming to the market economy. The 20th century ushers in more changes and while inequalities persist, there are increasing opportunities for people on the margins, but not without a struggle.

About the speaker

Allan Beesey is an Australian citizen but a long-time resident of Thailand. His development work from Yunnan through to the Mekong Delta covers remote areas across six countries and across cultural divides and political systems. His freelance work with the UN and with local and international agencies, including the Asian Development Bank, has documented population movements within and across borders with an eye on marginal populations, rising inequality and women’s changing role in society. His introduction to Thai society was through an Oxfam tour in 1985. With memories of Isan villages and the politics that divided Isan and Central Thai, he published his first book, Sisters of Isan. From the end of the Indochina War, Allan has documented historical changes as a means to understanding the present. He is semi-retired and living in the Thai resort hub of Hua Hin.


Thursday, 22 June 2023 at 19:00


Lecture Room, 4/Floor, The Siam Society


Members and Students (to undergraduate level) — Free of charge
Non-Members — THB 200

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