Since the late 1990s Thai cinema has come to global attention with movies like the famous ghost film, Nang Nak
, and more recently the evocative films of director Aphichatpong Weerasethakul, who won a Palme D’Or award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. A perennially popular theme in Thai cinema is that of haunting by a female ghost. In this unique, unusual book, Ghostly Desires: Queer Sexuality and Vernacular Buddhism in Contemporary Thai Cinema
(Duke University Press, 2016), Arnika Fuhrmann
hones in on this ghostly theme in contemporary Thai cinema to explore the subjects of female desire and queer sexuality. In doing so she raises questions about a central concept in Queer Theory: the nature of desire. Fuhrmann identifies a tension between Western liberal and everyday Thai Buddhist understandings of desire. Arguably, Buddhist teaching about desire is one factor that has contributed to Thailand’s reputation for being a “queer-friendly” country. Indeed, it is even marketed as a “gay paradise”. But the reality is not quite so simple, especially for women in same-sex relationships. Fuhrmann’s Ghostly Desires
also addresses the issue of the subtle regulation of heteronormative sexuality, “Thai-style”.
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Patrick Jory teaches Southeast Asian History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland. He can be reached at: email@example.com