United in competitive mourning: Commemorative spectacle in tribute to king Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

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After the death of King Bhumibol Aduljadej (13 October 2016), the entire nation turned black-and-white. For Thailand and the rest of the world alike, the images of massive gatherings of people in black, carrying portraits of Bhumibol were both expression and proof of a nation unified in grief and love for their great monarch. Rather than a self-evident ritualized way of expressing sorrow, gratitude or respect, these mourning rituals, however, sprang from a carefully designed mourning policy charged by a strong royalist nationalist ideology. Introducing the notion of ‘competitive mourning’, this contribution highlights the entanglement of coercion and competition for understanding the processes that shaped, intensified and magnified the mourning rituals. In addition, the chapter focusses on the significance of the secular administrative state structure in disseminating and reproducing the Thai ‘system of royal rituals’. These rituals, whether of ‘religious’ or ‘secular’ origin, all contribute to the sacredness of the king. Twenty-first century Thailand, Stengs argues, is ever more moving towards an inextricably intertwined secular-sacred of king, nation and state.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Secular Sacred
Subtitle of host publicationEmotions of Belonging and the Perils of Nation and Religion
EditorsMarkus Balkenhol, Ernst van den Hemel, Irene Stengs
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783030380502
ISBN (Print)9783030380496, 9783030380526
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePalgrave Politics of Identity and Citizenship Series


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