This dissertation examines the effects of state-society relations on processes of ethnic boundary-making and boundary-shifting in two villages in the conflict-affected region of southernmost Thailand. The study builds on an existing body of research that attempts to explain the persistence of anti-state violence in the border region of southern Thailand through the examination of state-society relations and problems of state legitimacy. Rather than seeking to explain the factors driving violent conflict, however, this study takes as its focus relations between the distinct ethno-religious communities that comprise the region’s population. The substantive chapters of the dissertation analyze relations between residents of two adjacent villages and various institutions of the Thai state. These include state security agencies (most prominently, the Border Patrol Police), various state-sponsored militias (including the Or Ror Bor and Chor Ror Bor), the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, the district administration, the subdistrict council and executive, and the village headmen and Village Administrative Committees. Thus, the analysis begins from a conception of the state as non-unitary and consisting of numerous distinct entities. The analysis proceeds by treating relations between residents of the villages and these various aspects of the state as distinct fields of social struggle. Comparisons are then drawn between various identifiable ethno-religious communities. Data for this study were collected over the course of 13-month period of ethnographic field research in two villages in an upland subdistrict of Bannangsata District, Yala Province. That district has been one of those most severely affected by the upsurge in organized anti-state violence in the region over the past 12 years. The villages are presented as fruitful sites for investigating the processes by which categories of identity shift and the boundaries that define them are made, remade and reinforced.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Harriss, John