King Vatthana’s Ghost: Revolution, Heritage and Legitimacy in Laos

Wilcox, Phill. 2018. King Vatthana’s Ghost: Revolution, Heritage and Legitimacy in Laos. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Laos has now been ruled as a one-party socialist state for almost forty years since the deposition of the last Lao King. Despite economic reforms that facilitate private enterprise, official nationalist discourse in Laos maintains socialist rhetoric with socialism an endpoint seemingly delayed indefinitely. This project investigates everyday understandings of nationalist discourse and people’s participation in and divergent views about Lao heritage in a context of change. It explores the increasingly visible role of the King in the Lao political landscape and asks what this means for a society that maintains nominal commitments to socialism. Similarly, Chinese influence is taking an increasingly prominent role at various levels in Lao society. This is a qualitative, ethnographic study, focusing on the former royal capital of Luang Prabang. This project combines literature on transitional societies, national identity and the politics of the past to consider anew the uses of heritage to create and constrain dissent. It utilises Herzfeld’s and Anderson’s models of nationalism to consider public and private expressions of nationalist sentiments and negotiations of these. It explores the different spaces created, officially and unofficially, for expressing nationalist support and opposition; and investigating how both ideas about the past, and perceptions of potentially undue influence from China feature in state attempts to facilitate and control those spaces and processes.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Additional Information:

Author name on thesis is Felicity Rachel Wilcox.


Laos, Anthropology, Cultural Intimacy, Legitimacy, Nationalism

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31 October 2018

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Date Deposited:

20 Mar 2019 15:47

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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