Nearly 80 Thai scholars from near and far will convene at Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center this weekend for the 41st Council on Thai Studies (COTS) conference.
The annual meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18, with a talk by NIU alumnus Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of the Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity at Prince of Songkla University in Pattani, Thailand.
Jitpiromsri, who received his Ph.D. in political science from NIU in 1997, arrived in DeKalb last week to receive a 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Oct. 11 from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. He will present “The Formation of Peace Discourse and the Politics of Recognition in the Patani Peace Process” in his Friday lecture.
Jitpiromsri has published and lectured extensively on the conflict between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority in southern Thailand. In addition to founding the center at Prince of Songkla, he is the founder of the non-governmental organization Deep South Watch.
In between a full day of panels on Saturday, Oct. 19, University of Leeds political scientist Duncan McCargo will give the keynote address, “Dispensing Justice? The Work of Thai Police Investigators” at 11:30 a.m.
McCargo, whose research focus is contemporary Thai politics, has most recently been engaged in fieldwork in southern Thailand. His 2008 book, “Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand,” won the Asia Society’s Bernard Schwartz prize. Widely published, he appears regularly on BBC radio and television.
In conjunction with the conference, an exhibition titled “Tai Cultures at Northern Illinois University” will be on display through Oct. 19 at the Holmes Student Center Gallery Lounge.
Curated by art historian Catherine Raymond, the exhibition features art, artifacts, and manuscripts from the Center for Burma Studies, the NIU Anthropology Museum and the Donn V. Hart Southeast Asia Collection at Founders Memorial Library. It is a version of the exhibition Raymond curated for the Sept. 18 visit to NIU by Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
COTS was founded at NIU in 1972 as an informal organization of scholars interested in all aspects of Thai studies and is hosted annually by various Midwest institutions. Last held at NIU in 2009, COTS 2013 was organized by the NIU Thai Studies Group, which includes Grant Olson (conference chair), John Hartmann, Julia Lamb, Andrea Molnar, Chalermsee Olson and Danny Unger.
“COTS has steadily grown, but it has never lost sight of its roots,” Olson said. “We do not charge a registration fee, and, so far, due to the generosity of various groups, we have been able to provide excellent venues for interaction as well as sustenance for those attending. Our idea is: get here, relax and interact. We believe that this ideal represents the ‘mood’ of Thailand.”
Funding for COTS was provided by the NIU Thai Teaching and Research Fund (established in 2009 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand) and by The Asia Foundation in Washington, D.C. with NIU support from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
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