Little Things Mean a Lot: Pots and Cloth in Northeast Thailand
Photo credit: IsanGate
Abstract – Studies of Thai culture tend to focus on Buddhism and state; studies of Thai art tend to focus on art as defined in Euro-American terms. This research report, based on a decade of fieldwork with more under way, is intended as a thoughtpiece to address ways of ascertaining the lives of everyday people through everyday things. Our studies of weaving and pottery production in Northeast Thai villages have provided ways to understand not only technology and marketing but also such issues as the relationship of ethnicity to technology; gender roles; social hierarchy of production; and the artistic dimensions of traditional production wherein individuals engage in making more or less standardized products. Weaving used to be a requisite skill for almost every village woman; pottery-making takes place as a seasonal activity only in specific communities that have access to clay. Our current study shows, in particular, how systems of pottery-making technology sometimes align with, but sometimes cut across, conventional ethnic identities, and how earthenware production seems to have provided a portable occupation for displaced ethnic/ social groups.
Authors: H. Leedom Lefferts and Louise Cort
* This article was published in the Journal of Siam Society and is being shared on the Thailand Foundation Website with permission from The Siam Society.