Tag Archives: America

The Hill Tribes that Wanted to Be Governed?

Recently I’ve been reading through some reports created by Americans in the 1960s as they tried to help the Royal Thai Government incorporate “hill tribes” into the nation of Thailand. These Americans were primarily trying to prevent small isolated villages from radicalizing and joining broader communist movements taking place across Southeast Asia.

The Art of Not Being GovernedMany of these report contain interviews with members of the hill tribes, and they have really got me thinking about how upland peoples interact with the state. In his book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott makes a number of argument demonstrating that hill tribes throughout history, more often than not, have attempted to evade the state and have actively worked to exist outside of the nation. But, these interviews tend to suggest that a number of upland peoples in Northern Thailand in the 1960s wanted to be more deeply embedded within the nation. They wanted to be governed.


It seems that almost all groups were aware that being born within geographical borders of the Thai nation-state, or geo-body if you prefer, created a certain set of rights and responsibilities based on their nationality. They particularly wanted the educational opportunities that they observed in lowland communities. However, many were confused by what appeared to be a racial and civilizational bias toward being racially Thai. They also found it disheartening that the only Thai officials they meet with any regularity were military boarder police.

Final Report Hill Tribes the Target Audience Supplement to Final Report 1969

This desire to be further incorporated into the state, particularly the desire to be educated by the Thai government, really flies in the face of Scott’s work. Moreover, it make me wonder why these incorporation programs by both the American and Thai governments turned out so poorly. Were these reports a sort of wish fulfilment by Thai and American researchers, or were these desires to be at least at some level smoothly incorporated into the state simply ignored?

Disneyland Diplomacy

In 1959, Nikita Khrushchev embarked on a ground breaking mission to visit the United States during a tense period of the Cold War. The Soviet leader met with President Eisenhower and even attended a star-studded lunch in Hollywood on September 19th. However, the visit turned sour over a somewhat unusual set of circumstances. Khrushchev was furious that he would not be allowed to visit Disneyland. Khrushchev, Soviet Union, 1959, Los Angeles, Disneyland, Disney

Since that time, high ranking foreign dignitaries coming to the United States, particularly “third world” leaders the United States hoped would lean toward democracy, have routinely been taken on a tour of the Magic Kingdom as part of the American experience. Famous guests have include The King of Nepal Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in 1960, Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, The Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1962, Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie in 1967, Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu in 1970, and Emperor or Japan Hirohito in 1975 among others.

Ceausescu, Disney, Disneyland, 1970, President Why did Disneyland become such a routine element of American foreign policy during the Cold War? Was America trying to portray the benefits of consumerism, an open public sphere, or just a better Tomorrow Land?