Feudalism as a Trope or Discourse for the Asian Past with special reference to Thailand

Craig J. Reynolds


The   problem that will interest me in this essay is the existence of terms for   feudalism in Asian-language discourses about past and present society and   what the writer in English -anthropologist, literary scholar, historian,   linguist, whatever -is to do with these feudalisms. Why do native speakers of   Asian languages term their own societies "feudal" (feudal = term in   language X) and how do they come to employ this term? Generally, Western   writers dismiss these Asian-language feudalisms as too culture-bound to be of   use in writing objective history. Such usage, so the argument might run, is   too embedded in internal debates within Asian societies about who should -or   should not -hold power. That is, "feudalism" is a category of social   evolution that serves revolutionary or official nationalist interests, and   such interests so skew its usage that the term cannot tell the disinterested   observer anything illuminating about the political economy of a particular   society. 

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