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The cult of Phaya Narin Songkhram: Spirit mediums and shifting sociocultural boundaries in northeastern Thailand

  • Ian G. Baird

Abstract

Sociocultural boundaries come in many forms, and crucially, are responsive to power and constantly in flux. This article focuses on the production of space and unmarked sociocultural boundaries linked to spirit mediums in a historically contested area of northeastern Thailand who are possessed by the spirits of Phaya Narin Songkhram — a key ‘Lao’ military leader of Chao Anou's famous Vientiane revolt against Siam between 1826–28 — and those of his subordinates. Spirit mediums linked to ethnic ‘Thai’ leaders are also found to the south of this area. Through channeling and performing these historical persons, spirit mediums keep alive and reproduce group memories with space-making implications. This article also shows how the mediums' positioning has shifted over time and varies in relation to contemporary power relations, altering the sociocultural boundaries between ethnic Lao and Thai.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence in connection with this paper should be addressed to: ibaird@wisc.edu.

References

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1 See Pellow, Deborah, ed., Setting boundaries: The anthropology of spatial and social organization (Westport, CT and London: Bergin and Garvey, 1996); Donnan, Hastings and Wilson, Thomas M., Borders: Frontiers of identity, nation and state (Oxford: Berg, 2001); Migdal, Joel Samuel, Boundaries and belonging: States and societies in the struggle to shape identities and local practices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Newman, David and Paasi, Anssi, ‘Fences and neighbours in the postmodern world: Boundary narratives in political geography’, Progress in Human Geography 22, 2 (1998): 186207.

2 Bourdieu, Pierre, Outline of a theory of practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977); Foucault, Michel, The archaeology of knowledge (London: Routledge, 1972).

3 Kaiser, Robert and Nikiforova, Elena, ‘Borderland spaces of identification and dis/location: Multiscalar narratives and enactments of Seto identity and place in the Estonian–Russian borderlands’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 29, 5 (2006): 928–58.

4 Lefebvre, Henri, The production of space (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991).

5 A spirit cult, in this particular context, is a ‘group of adherents to a set of religious beliefs and ritual in which ghosts are believed to interfere in the affairs of the living.’ http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/anth370/gloss.html (last accessed on 9 Oct. 2013).

6 Phaya was a high-level honorific conferred upon leaders by the King of Siam; Chao is an honorific term indicating a royal position.

7 Makris, G.P., ‘Slavery, possession and history: The construction of the self among slave descendants in the Sudan’, Africa 66, 2 (1996): 159–82; Hale, Lindsay Lauren, ‘Preto Velho: Resistance, redemption, and engendered representations of slavery in a Brazilian possession-trance religion’, American Ethnologist 24, 2 (1997): 392414; Lambek, Michael, ‘The Sakalava poiesis of history: Realizing the past through spirit possession in Madagascar’, American Ethnologist 25, 2 (1998): 106–27; Wirtz, Kristina, ‘Enregistered memory and Afro-Cuban historicity in Santerıa's ritual speech’, Language & Communication 27 (2007): 245–57; Venkatachalam, Meera, ‘Between the umbrella and the elephant: Elections, ethnic negotiations and the politics of spirit possession in Teshi, Accra’, Africa 81, 2 (2011): 248–68.

8 See, for instance, Doré, Amphay, ‘Profils mediumniques Lao’, Cahiers de l'Asie du Sud-Est 5 (1979): 725; Trankell, Ing-Britt, ‘Songs of our spirits: Possession and historical imagination among the Cham in Cambodia’, Asian Ethnicity 4, 1 (2003): 3146; Davis, Erik, ‘Khmer spirits, Chinese bodies: Chinese spirit mediums and spirit possession rituals in contemporary Cambodia’, in Faith in the future: Understanding the revitalization of religions and cultural traditions in Asia, ed. Reuter, Thomas A. and Horstmann, Alexander (The Hague: Brill, 2012), pp. 177–96; Fjeldstad, Karen and Nien, Nguyen Thi, ed. Spirits without borders: Vietnamese spirit mediums in a transnational age (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); de la Perriere, Bénédicte Brac, Les rituels de possession en Birmanie: Du culte d'etat aux cérémonies privées (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, ADPF, 1989); DeBernardi, Jean, The way that lives in the heart: Chinese popular religion and spirit mediums in Penang, Malaysia (Singapore: NUS Press, 2012).

9 Turton, Andrew, ‘Matrilineal descent groups and spirit cults of the Thai Yuan in northern Thailand’, Journal of the Siam Society 60, 2 (1972): 217–56; Irvine, Walter, ‘Decline of village spirit medium cults and growth of urban spirit mediumship: The persistence of spirit beliefs, the position of women and modernisation’, Mankind 14, 4 (1984): 315–24; Tanabe, Shigeharu, ‘Spirits, power and discourse of female gender: The Phi Meng cult in northern Thailand’, in Thai construction of knowledge, ed. Chitakasem, Manas and Turton, Andrew (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1991), pp. 183212; Muecke, Marjorie A., ‘Monks and mediums: Religious syncretism in northern Thailand’, Journal of the Siam Society 80, 21 (1992): 97103; Morris, Rosalind C., In the place of origins: Modernity and its mediums in northern Thailand (Durham, NJ: Duke University Press, 2000); Stengs, Irene, Worshiping the great moderniser: King Chulalongkorn, patron saint of the Thai middle class (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009).

10 Tambiah, Stanley J., Buddhism and the spirit cults in north-east Thailand (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970); Mills, Mary Beth, ‘Attack of the widow ghosts: Gender, death, and modernity in northeast Thailand’, in Bewitching women, pious men: Gender and body politics in Southeast Asia, ed. Ong, Aihwa and Peletz, Michael (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 244–73; Kitiarsa, Pattana, Mediums, monks and amulets: Thai popular Buddhism today (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2012); Grow, Mary, ‘Celebrating divine wrath: The spirit cult of Luang Phau Phra Cao Sua, the Tiger King’, Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 16, 1 (2002): 118; Alexandra Denes, ‘Recovering Khmer ethnic identity from the Thai national past: An ethnography of the localism movement in Surin Province’ (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, Ithaca, 2006); Jovan Maud, ‘The sacred borderland: A Buddhist saint, the state, and transnational religion in southern Thailand’ (Ph.D. diss., Macquarie University, Sydney, 2008); Supeena Insee Adler, ‘A theater of the spirits: Ritual performance and community in northeast Thailand’ (M.A. thesis, University of California, Riverside, 2010); Cohen, Eric, The Chinese vegetarian festival in Phuket: Religion, ethnicity, and tourism on a southern Thai island (Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 2001); McDaniel, Justin T., The lovelorn ghost and the magical monk: Practicing Buddhism in modern Thailand (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Nilsen, Marte, ‘The spirit of a heroine: Spirit reverence, patriotism, and Thai Buddhism’, Modern Asian Studies 45, 6 (2011): 1599–625.

11 Guelden, Marlane's publications include: Thailand: Spirits among us (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2007); Spirit mediumship in southern Thailand: The feminization of Nora ancestral possession’, in Dynamic diversity in southern Thailand, ed. Sugunnasil, Wattana (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2005), pp. 179212; ‘Ancestral spirit mediumship in southern Thailand: The Nora performance as a symbol of the south on the periphery of a Buddhist nation-state’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Hawai‘i, 2005); Thailand: Into the spirit world (Singapore: Times Editions, 1995).

12 Tanabe, ‘Spirits, power and discourse of female gender’.

13 Guelden, Spirits among us, p. 98.

14 Morris, In the place of origins.

15 Schenk-Sandbergen, Loes and Choulamany-Khamphoui, Outhaki, Women in rice fields and offices: Irrigation in Laos, gender specific case studies in four villages (Heiloo: Empowerment, 1995).

16 Guelden, Spirits among us.

17 Rosalind Morris discusses the admission of one famous male central Thai spirit medium that he had faked his performances as a spirit medium for many years. See Morris, In the place of origins.

18 Mae Nang Sitithai is the spirit medium for Luang Banthao. She lives in Kok village, the capital of Chatturat. All those mentioned in this article consented to having their real names used, since they did not perceive any risk in doing so.

19 Guelden, Spirits among us.

20 Irvine, ‘Decline of village spirit medium cults’; Walter Irvine, ‘The Thai–Yuan “madman” and the “modernising, developing Thai nation” as bounded entities under threat: A study in the replication of a single image’ (Ph.D. diss., SOAS, University of London, 1982).

21 Guelden, Spirits among us; Morris, In the place of origins.

22 Guelden, Spirits among us, p. 99.

23 Pattana, Mediums, monks and amulets; Jackson, Peter A., ‘The political economy of twenty-first century Thai supernaturalism: Comparative perspectives on cross-genderism and limits to hybridity in resurgent Thai spirit mediumship’, South East Asia Research 20, 4 (2012): 611–22; Nilsen, ‘The spirit of a heroine’.

24 Guelden, Spirits among us.

25 Guelden, Spirits among us; Morris, In the place of origins; Tanabe, ‘Spirits, power and discourse of female gender’; Irvine, ‘Decline of village spirit medium cults’.

26 Quoted in Guelden, Spirits among us.

27 Tanabe, ‘Spirits, power and discourse of female gender’; Irvine, ‘The Thai–Yuan “madman”’.

28 Weber, Max, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (New York: Norton Critical Editions, 2009[1905]).

29 See also Comaroff, Jean, ‘Defying disenchantment: Reflections on ritual, power, and history’, in Asian visions of authority: Religion and the modern states of East and Southeast Asia, ed. Keyes, Charles F., Kendall, Laurel, and Hardacre, Helen (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1994), pp. 301–15.

30 Morris, In the place of origins; Irvine, ‘Decline of village spirit medium cults’.

31 Irvine, ‘Decline of village spirit medium cults’.

32 Denes, ‘Recovering Khmer ethnic identity’.

33 His Lao name was apparently Chao Anourout, but the Siamese gave him the royal name Chao Anouvong (Sisavatdy, Khamphoui, Praraxpravat lae virakam khong Somdet Prachao Anou–Vientiane, phou nam thi sang pravatsat Lao kou isaraphap khong prathet Lane Xang [The history and heroism of His Majesty King Anou–Vientiane, a leader who created Lao history for the freedom of the nation of a million elephants] (in Lao) (n.p.: Khamphoui Sisavatdy, 1994), p. 267.

34 Ford, Ryan, ‘Memories of Chao Anou: New history and post-socialist ideology’, Journal of Lao Studies 2, 2 (2011): 104–26; Khamphoui, Praraxpravat lae virakam khong Somdet Prachao Anou–Vientiane; Manit Opma, Pravat chao por lae pravat khwam pen ma khong Amphur Chatturat [The history of founding father and the historical origins of Chatturat District] (In Thai) (Nong Bua Yai: n.p., 1980 [BE 2523]).

35 Ngaosyvathn, Mayoury and Ngaosyvathn, Pheuiphan, Paths to conflagration: Fifty years of diplomacy and warfare in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, 1778–1828 (Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asian Program Publications, Cornell University, 1998); Laolith, Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum [History of Chaiyaphum] (In Thai) (Bangkok: Chom Rom Chaiyaphum, Regular Education Department, Ministry of Education, 2002[BE 2545]); Khamphoui, Praraxpravat lae virakam khong Somdet Prachao Anou–Vientiane; Sila, The history of Laos.

36 Anonymous, Thao Suranari virasatri Thai [Thao Suranari, Thai Heroine] (In Thai) (Muang Nakhon Ratchasima: Wat Sala Loi, 2011 [BE 2554]); Sila, The history of Laos; Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum.

37 Punnothok, Thawat, Phun Wiang: Kan Suksa Prawattisat lae Wannakam Isan [Concerning the chronicle of Phun Wiang: The history and arts of Northeast Thailand] (Bangkok: Sathaban Thai Kadi Suksa, Thammasat University, 1983), pp. 78–9, reports that local versions of the story of Chao Anou's rebellion claim it stemmed from the latter's conflict with the Chao Muang of Khorat about registering the population in Isan through tattooing (sak lek hua Muang Isan), and friction between the Chao Muang of Khorat and Chao Nyo, Chao Anou's son, in Champassak. There is no mention of any problem with Bangkok, nor is there evidence that Chao Anou planned to attack Bangkok. The attack on Chao Anou's forces at Thung Samrit is alleged to have been planned by the Chao Muang of Nakhon Ratchasima, not Ya Mo.

38 Keyes, Charles F., ‘National heroine or local spirit: The struggle over memory in the case of Thao Suranari of Nakhon Ratchasima’, in Cultural crisis and social memory: Modernity and identity in Thailand and Laos, ed. Tanabe, Shigeharu and Keyes, Charles F. (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, 2002), pp. 113–36.

39 Sila, History of Laos. Chao muang was the term used for the chiefs of city-states or districts (amphur in Thai).

40 Sila, History of Laos, p. 120; Anonymous, Pavat khong Amphur Chatturat [The history of Chatturat district] (in Thai), n.d., p. 4; Bunyanuson, Udom, Pavat Ban Talat [History of Talat Village] (in Thai) (Chatturat, Chaiyaphum: Self-published, 2010 [BE 2553]); Anonymous, Phun wiang samai Chao Anou [Phun wiang in the time of Chao Anou] (in Lao) (Vientiane: Lao Language and Literature Section, Faculty of Linguistics, National University of Laos, 2004), p. 66.

41 Raikanthap muang Viengchan [Army report Vientiane City] (in Thai), 8 (n.d.): 81–3 (Kham Hai Kan, National Archives of Thailand, Bangkok).

42 Phaya Narin Songkhram fought and was captured at present-day Pakchong Phu Wiang, just outside of the administrative centre of Phu Wiang district, Khon Khen Province. A shrine there is devoted to him and locals organise an annual major festival in his memory. He is known there as ‘Chao Chorm’ and is the most respected spirit in the district. Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat; Anon., Sala Chao Chorm Narin.

43 Anon., Pavat khong Amphur Chatturat, p. 4.

44 Ford, ‘Memories of Chao Anou’; Khamphoui, Praraxpravat lae virakam khong Somdet Prachao Anou–Vientiane; Sila, History of Laos; Bunyanuson, Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat [History of Chatturat district] (in Thai) (Chatturat, Chaiyaphum, Thailand: Self-published, 2010 [BE 2553]).

45 Ngaosyvathn and Ngaosyvathn, Paths to conflagration, p. 13.

46 Thawat, Phun wiang; Ngaosyvathn and Ngaosyvathn, Paths to conflagration; Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’; Anon., Pheun wiang samai Chao Anou; Ford, ‘Memories of Chao Anou’.

47 Khamphoui, Praraxpravat lae virakam khong Somdet Prachao Anou–Vientiane.

48 Sila, The history of Laos.

49 Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum, p. 85; Sila, The history of Laos, pp. 113–14.

50 Sila, The history of Laos, p. 114.

51 Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum, p. 85.

52 Songkhram means ‘war’.

53 Achan (‘teacher’) is a term of respect, generally used with educated men.

54 Manit, Pravat chao por lae pravat khwam pen ma khong Amphur Chatturat; Anon., Pavat khong Amphur Chatturat.

55 Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat, p. 2. Achan Ma, who was Achan Kham's deputy, was given the title Luang Aphay, and later became the upahat, or deputy, of Muang Simoom.

56 Anon., Amphur Chatturat.

57 Manit, Pravat chao por lae pravat khwam pen ma khong Amphur Chatturat.

58 A pamphlet produced by the local government of Chatturat describes it as being officially established under the thesaban system in 1898 [BE 2436]: 100 Pi Amphur Chatturat [100 years of Chatturat district] (in Thai) (Chatturat: 1998 [BE 2536]). However, the name had been used for the district even before then: see Manit, Pravat chao por lae pravat khwam pen ma khong Amphur Chatturat; Anon., Pavat khong Amphur Chatturat; Anon., Amphur Chatturat; Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat.

59 It is noted here that the ethno-nationalism of that era undoubtedly differs from its contemporary form.

60 Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum.

61 Ford, ‘Memories of Chao Anou’, p. 107.

62 Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat, p. 7.

63 Raikanthap Muang Viengchan.

64 Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat, p. 7.

65 Ibid.; Anonymous, Sala Chao Chorm Narin [The shrine of the High Royal Narin] (in Thai), 2008[2551], http://www.mkpat.org/index.php?name=knowledge&file=readknowledge&id=10 (last accessed 29 Dec. 2011); Anon., Amphur Chatturat, p. 5. Maha Sila Viravong, however, claims that Phaya Narin Songkhram was killed by an elephant stomping on him: Sila, History of Laos, p. 121.

66 Udom, Pavat Ban Talat; Pavat Muang Chatturat.

67 Udom, Pavat Ban Talat.

68 Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat, p. 9.

69 Ibid.

70 Ibid., p. 9.

71 Ibid.; Manit, Pravat chao por lae pravat khwam pen ma khong Amphur Chatturat; Anon., Pavat khong Amphur Chatturat.

72 Aymonier, Etienne, Voyage dans le Laos (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1897), pp. 287306.

73 Udom, Pavat Ban Talat and Pavat Muang Chatturat; See also Mikusol, Paitoon, Kan patiroop kan pokkhrong Monthon Isan 2436–2453 [Administrative reform in the Isan provinces, BE 2436–2453] (In Thai) (Bangkok: Education Unit, Teaching Training Department, 1972); Bunnag, Tej, The provincial administration of Siam 1892–1915 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).

74 Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat, p. 12; Anon., Amphur Chatturat, p. 5.

75 Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat, p. 13.

76 Official slogan for Chatturat district, 100 Pi Amphur Chatturat; my translation.

77 Hayarop, Savat, Pravat yo Ban Nong Bua Yai kuson katha [Brief history of Nong Bua Yai Village, katha merit-making] (in Thai), (Nong Bua Yai, Wat Pathummachat, 1962 [BE 2505]).

78 Savat, Pravat yo Ban Nong Bua Yai kuson katha, p. 1; my translation.

79 Udom, Pavat Ban Talat and Pavat Muang Chatturat; Anon., Amphur Chatturat, p. 5.

80 Anon., Amphur Chatturat; Udom, Pavat Muang Chatturat.

81 Anon., Amphur Chatturat, p. 5.

82 Mae (mother), is a term of respect used with older women.

83 Mae Wat's great-grand aunt, Mae Theu Khamchumphon, preceded her as the spirit medium for Phaya Narin Songkhram, and Mae Dee Mee Suwan preceded her. Prior to Mae Dee, a male, Grandpa Luang Suwan, was the spirit medium (Mae Wat Khemwiset, pers. comm., 21 July 2011). Savat mentions that one of the original founders of Nong Bua Yai was named Luang Suwan, although this might be just a coincidence. Savat, Pravat yo Ban Nong Bua Yai kuson katha, p. 6, history section.

84 Mae Keo Chanachai is the spirit medium of ‘Khun Dan’, a thahan ayk or military commander under Phaya Narin Songkhram. She lives in Nong Bua Yai.

85 Mae Sian Opma is the spirit medium for ‘Mae Ek Khai’, the spirit, or Chao Nong, responsible for Nong Bua Yai. She lives in Nong Bua Yai. She is related to Mae Wat Khemwiset.

86 Mae San Arichart is the spirit medium for ‘Pho Nyai Cheep Samut Thong’, Phaya Narin Songkhram's deputy. She lives in Nong Bua Yai.

87 Mae Mun serves as the ‘secretary’ (samian) of Thong Dee. She lives in Nong Bua Yai.

88 Mae Samlan Philomthai is the spirit medium for ‘Khun Sulivong Kiang Kai’, a thahan ayk, or military commander, under Phaya Narin Songkhram. She lives in Nong Bua Long, adjacent to Nong Bua Yai.

89 The ritual for Phaya Narin Songkhram takes place during the fourth lunar month and that for another spirit, Khun Dan, occurs during the sixth lunar month. These rituals must occur on a Wednesday (wan phut) in the morning. Khun Sulivong's ritual occurs every year on his birthday, 15 Apr. (fifth lunar month), which coincides with the Songkran (Thai New Year) festival.

90 Denes, ‘Recovering Khmer ethnic identity’, p. 202.

91 Turton, ‘Matrilineal descent groups’; Wijewardene, Gehan, Place and emotion in northern Thai ritual behavior (Bangkok: Pandora, 1986); Morris, In the place of origins; Irvine, ‘Decline of village spirit medium cults’.

92 See Kietlinska, Kasia and Parmelee, Donna, Communism's negotiated collapse: The Polish round table, ten years later. A conference at the University of Michigan April 7–10, 1999. English transcript of the conference proceedings (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Russian and East European Studies, 1999).

93 Thao Suranari was apparently the title given to Ying/Ya Mo by King Rama III after the defeat of Chao Anou's army. Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’, p. 118.

94 Kaew-ngarmprasert, Saipin, Kanmuang nai anusawari thao Suranari [The politics of the monument of Thao Suranari], special issue, Sinlapa Wattanatham (Bangkok: Matichon, 1995 [BE 2542]); Nilsen, ‘The spirit of a heroine’; Anon., Thao Suranari virasatri Thai; Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’; Thawat, Phun wiang.

95 Wungkeeree, Bourin, ‘Self-awareness of Luang Prabang Laoness in Thailand: A case study of myth and ritual’, MANUSYA: Journal of Humanities 11, 1 (2008): 91105.

96 Nittaya Wannakit and Siraporn Nathalang, ‘Dynamics of power of space in the Tai–Yuan Chao Luang Kham Daeng cult’, Special issue, MANUSYA: Journal of Humanities 19 (2011): 87104.

97 Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’, p. 128.

98 Aymonier, Voyage dans le Laos, pp. 287–306.

99 The area includes, at its core, Nong Bua Yai, Non Phan Chat, and Nong Bua Rong villages, all in Nong Bua Yai subdistrict. The spirit of Phaya Narin Songkhram's ally, Luang Aphay, is important in nearby Talat village, where an older spirit, Khun Som, is also revered. Luang Aphay is also respected in other villages in Kut Nam Sai subdistrict, Chatturat, as well as in Nong Bua Rawe district, Chaiyaphum Province.

100 Fieldwork interviews, Nong Bua Khok village, 12 July 2013.

101 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non_Thai_District (last accessed 9 Oct. 2013).

102 Quoted in Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’, p. 122.

103 See Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’; Saipin, Kanmuang nai anusawari thao Suranari; Thawat, Phun wiang.

104 San refers to shrine in Thai, and chao por to founding father in Thai. In Lao, they are generally referred to as ta ho.

105 See Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum.

106 His official title is Rong Nayok Khanamontri Thesaban Amphur Chaiyaphum.

107 See Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum.

108 Interestingly, Achan Suthi was much more candid in person compared to the content of his book, which was much less Lao nationalist in tone, and not as revealing.

109 The name of the country changed from Siam to Thailand in 1939. Saipin (Kanmuang nai anusawari thao Suranari) discusses attempts to find local people to integrate into the national narrative.

110 See Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’; Saipin, Kanmuang nai anusawari thao Suranari; Thawat, Phun wiang.

111 Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum.

112 Phaya Lae, or Phaya Phraphakdichumphon, apparently migrated from Vientiane to Chaiyaphum in 1817 [BE 2360], and two years later he founded Muang Chaiyaphum (Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum, p. 79). While many people I interviewed in Chaiyaphum for this research believe that Phaya Lae and Phaya Narin Songkhram were brothers, they were not related. In addition, Phaya Narin Songkhram is believed to have established Muang Simoom before Phaya Lae left Vientiane (Suthi Laolith, pers. comm., 1 Aug. 2011).

113 Khun Dan was also a government position.

114 In 2011, Achan Suthi admitted to me privately that he believed that Phaya Narin Songkhram had willingly joined Chao Anou. However, in his book he states (apparently for political reasons) that Phaya Narin Songkhram was threatened into joining Chao Anou. Suthi, Pravat muang Chaiyaphum, p. 92.

115 Saipin, Kanmuang nai anusawari thao Suranari.

116 Keyes, ‘National heroine or local spirit’.

The author would like to thank all the spirit mediums and other informants who assisted him during this research, especially Mae Wat Khemwiset, the spirit medium for Phaya Narin Songkhram in Nong Bua Yai village, Chatturat district, Chaiyaphum Province, Thailand. Thanks also to Suthi Laolith, Suthep Seusamlit, Udom Bunyanuson, Thongdee Chaleelin, and Phra Khru Wuthithammathada (Achan Wiloon), the abbot of Wat Pathummachat, Nong Bua Yai village. Thanks to Erick White, Ryan Wolfson-Ford and Leedom Lefferts for reading earlier drafts of this article and providing helpful feedback, and for the very useful comments of two anonymous reviewers. This research would not have been nearly as easy or enjoyable if it was not for my wife, Monsiri Baird, who assisted me in various ways during the field research and writing up period. The maps were prepared with the assistance of Isaac Dorsch and Chloe Quinn from the Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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