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The article “Standing in the Shadows” reveals that the study of anthropology rarely delves into the world of electoral politics especially when it concerns the involvement and influence of women in the electoral process. The Thai electoral process in particular is assumed to revolve around the concept of kinship networks where women do not directly contribute to the success or failure of electoral processes. This is a fallacious statement when taking into consideration the fact that various studies done by social anthropologists examining Thai politics show that it is often the wife, sister, or mother of a parliamentarian that deals with the majority of the constituency work which is one of the primary reasons why an individual gets elected in the first place. In short, this article argues the notion that the electoral politics in Thailand, especially in rural areas, are deeply influenced by matrilinear and matrilocal traditions in which women greatly influence the result of elections.
Problem/ Issue Indicated in the article
Due to the androcentric bias in Thai electoral proceedings as well as a distinct lack of evidence in various anthropological studies, women are assumed to be politically irrelevant due to the lack of their political networks, lack of knowledge of global issues, and low numbers in elected offices. In other words, women are assumed to not have any direct impact on the electoral process in Thailand. Yet what must be understood is that women play a fundamental, albeit anomalous role, in Thai politics. They help to forge the necessary links between candidates and villages which creates name recognition which ultimately helps to win elections. British anthropologist Daniel Arghiros even goes so far as to say that it is the action of the women behind elected officials that causes men to win over voters. As such, despite this apparent importance in political activities, it must be questioned why the actions of women in Thai politics continue to be barely noticeable or even “invisible” to the perception of the general public and various members of the academia (Bowie 2008).
Analysis of Material Presented by the Author
An analysis of the material presented by the author reveals a more ethnographic approach towards the study rather than a purely theoretical analysis. While the author’s views and comments explaining the various aspects of the election process and the way matrilinear lines affected voting behavior was fascinating one cannot help but think that author was overly elaborative in explaining the lives of people within the village. While this examination of the author’s work gives her credit on the amount of time and effort she put into creating it what must be taken into consideration is the fact that at times it diverged from the ethnographic to merely being a pure narrative of events rather than an in-depth examination of the nature of the influence of women in the electoral proceedings.
Relating the specific research to wider scholarly literature
It must be noted that throughout the paper, except in parts elaborating life during the election, the author prodigiously utilized excerpts, claims, and ideas from numerous scholarly articles to support her idea regarding the influence of matrilocality on Thai rural elections. Unlike another scholarly article, she usually framed the ideas taken from sources within the context of the elections or in direct support of her ideas. There is little mention of alternative ideas that go against her current argument.
Research Methods Employed
One noticeable aspect of the article is the use of the first-person perspective in writing and how the author relates her experiences with academic literature. As such it is obvious that the research method involved was a combination of cultural immersion over several years in the Thai village combined with academic research to create a study that bases itself on the experiences of the author along with her observations of the social interactions that are happening around her.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Overall, the article is quite strong in its argument regarding the influence of women in Thai electoral proceedings. The use of the election setting along with the views of various scholarly sources further enforces this idea. Unfortunately, the author made the mistake of being overly elaborative on the event and lives of people towards the end of the paper that it seemed to be framed more along the lines of journal entry rather than an academic paper.
Overall this assignment has helped me to understand that assumptions based on pure conjecture should not be relied upon. The study of anthropology is in itself an examination of the hidden details on human society that people tend to neglect, overlook or just fail to see themselves. The article “Standing in the Shadows” is an example of how an assumption made based on a prejudicial decision turned out to be wrong. As such to truly understand the essence of studying anthropology I believe the first thing that must be done is to get rid of your inherent prejudices to be able to understand people better.
Bowie, K. (2008). Standing in the shadows: of matrilocality and the role of women in a village election in northern Thailand. American Ethnologist, 35(1), 136-153.