Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Vol 47, No 3 (2008)

HALF A HEART: DENATURALIZING POLYGYNY IN BANGKOK, THAILAND

Jiemin Bao

Abstract


Polygyny is practiced throughout Thai society and often attributed to a “man’s nature.” This study reveals that polygyny is informed by the political economy and identity politics. By analyzing polygynous practices among second generation Chinese Thai family businesses, polygyny can be understood as an economic enterprise, a sexual relationship, and an affair of the heart. The naturalization of Thai men’s sexual privilege not only conceals power relationships but also compels men and women to perceive conjugal problems as personal instead of expressions of larger social issues. Notions of family business, masculinity and femininity, and money and sex are intricately intertwined with polygynous relationships. (Polygyny, family business, masculine and feminine identity, Chinese Thai)

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