Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 27, November 2011
AQA Awards the 2011 Ruth Benedict Book Prize to
Peter A. Jackson's edited volume
Queer Bangkok: 21st Century Markets, Media, and Rights
The American Anthropological Association's Association for Queer Anthropology (AQA, formerly the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists, SOLGA), is very pleased to announce that Peter A. Jackson has been awarded the 2011 Ruth Benedict Book Prize in the category "Outstanding Anthology" for the edited collection Queer Bangkok: 21st Century Markets, Media, and Rights (Hong Kong University Press, 2011).
The Ruth Benedict Prize is presented each year at the American Anthropological Association's national meeting to acknowledge excellence in a scholarly book written from an anthropological perspective about a topic that engages issues and theoretical perspectives relevant to LGBTQ studies.
More about the anthology:
Peter A. Jackson's edited volume Queer Bangkok: 21st Century Markets, Media, and Rights offers an impressive array of perspectives – interdisciplinary, yet always anthropological – on the city's queer cultures and communities. Moving away from a focus on places frequented by international tourists, the contributors emphasize what queer lives are like in Bangkok for those who live there. The book's contributing authors take readers to key sites in this queer Bangkok, from the actual (saunas and clinics) to the virtual (cyberspace) to the fictional (films and novels). This diversity of domains enables the consideration of a rich array of evidence: Jackson's editorial gifts lead to a whole that adds up to even more than its individually already impressive parts.
The book moves from considerations of markets and media to global and regional networks to activism and rights. Yet, throughout the volume, investment in analytic categories gives way to attentiveness to processes of queering, leading readers to envision an anthropology of contemporary worlds that remains geographically situated while also effectively documenting material and ideational flows. Theoretically, the contributors build on key insights by Dennis Altman, Tom Boellstorff, Martin Manalansan, (and others), to provide a more adequate framework through which to consider how the complexities and nuances of concepts of gender and sexuality do and don't translate in a place like Thailand, where processes of globalization and localization do not simply reiterate or resist Western hegemonic forms. Indeed, this simultaneous sensitivity to located specificity and trans-cultural exchange manifests throughout the volume's many chapters, as in Brett Farmer's reading of "vernacular queerness" in the film The Love of Siam. These pursuits are a testament to the promise of ethnographic possibility, so needed in a world where people are under much pressure to check themselves into boxes in which they may not feel at home. The cruel ironies of the effects of such categorizations are pursued poignantly in Douglas Sanders's discussion of kathoeys, military service, and marriage.
As a whole, this volume represents a significant contribution to queer anthropology. Simultaneously, it shows how the cultural processes at work in this particular milieu have broader implications for global geopolitical dynamics.
Peter A. Jackson is Professor in the School of Culture, History & Language at the Australian National University. Jackson's scholarship, which includes several single-authored monographs and edited collections, focuses on Thai cultural history, the history of sexuality and sexual cultures, and Buddhism and religious studies. Jackson is also past Executive Officer of the National Thai Studies Centre at the Australian National University.
The Ruth Benedict Book Prize will be presented to the winning authors during the AQA Business meeting on Friday 18 November at the 110th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Montréal. AQA would like to thank the Ruth Benedict Book Prize Committee for their thoughtful work, including former Benedict Prize winners Tanya Erzen and Ellen Lewin, and Graduate Student Representative, Richard Martin. For questions or additional information, please contact the Committee Chair, Mary L. Gray.