Fake Cake: Thai Weddings

Techamai, Damnoen (2022). Fake Cake: Thai Weddings. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001515a

Abstract

My thesis investigate contemporary weddings in Thailand, which is categorised as one of a hybrid culture - a mixture of Western and traditional Thai culture. By using hybridity as a key concept to investigate the weddings and their elements. I look at them on three levels: one is at the level of forms and spaces, second is at the level of processes, expressions and the other is at the level of significations - a relationship between two terms, a signifier and a signified.

The interpretation has been made based on the anthropological interpretation of cultural analysis from all of the collected data that relating to weddings and marriage topics, throughout a range of both historical and contemporary cultural materials provided by the wedding experts: wedding magazines, wedding packages, menus, wedding photography, pre-wedding photography, video, film, etc. The final analysis is focused on the key wedding elements and their ritual processes, as exemplified in the wedding ceremonies.

The thesis is organised by my argument that the weddings and their elements are no longer made up a category of ritual as such, but rather belong to the category of the image. All aspect of the contemporary Thai wedding can be thought of as having been reduced to components of the images as captured by the processes of photography and videography. I would state that all elements are made to pursue 'the image'. This image is established in both the actual spaces and the photographic spaces.

The wedding elements thus have become 'the image-object' instead of the object for the ritual per se. At a functional level, each element has to address different needs and conditions. At a structure level, the signification system of the Thai weddings is not designed to fulfil 'what one needs' per se, but rather to fulfil the needs of the authority. The authority in this context is a system created by the intersection of the two structures that govern Thai society: the structure of seniority and the structure of celebrity.

Following this argument, in this thesis, I first present the structure of wedding space by selecting the key elements based on the semantic elements of the weddings I found during the study. I have categorised them in three categories. They are the Body (the Gown, the Makeup and the Hair), the Objects (the Cake, the Finger foods and the Flowers) and the Spaces (the Pre-wedding photograph and the Venue). Second, I reveal the complexity of the hybrid through these selected elements.

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