Refashioning the Siamese Monarchy through the Lens: Politics of Dress and Self-Representation through Photography in The Royal Court of King Mongkut (r.1851-68) and King Chulalongkorn (r.1868-1910)
In Asia, the period from the 1850s to the 1950s encompassed intense cultural interaction and colonial expansion, frequently followed by nationalist reactions against Western imperialism. In mainland Southeast Asia in particular, the elites were exposed to significant cultural influences and exchanges both from British and French colonial officials, as well as American and European traders and travellers. The interpretations and adaptation of Western dress resulted in a variety of hybridised dress styles – many of which have yet to be thoroughly examined from a scholarly perspective, especially in relation to the social, economic, cultural and political agency they projected.
My research focuses on three inextricably intertwined key themes: the politics of dress and the carefully composed self-representation embodied by the two Siamese monarchs, King Mongkut (r.1851-1868) and his son, King Chulalongkorn (r.1868-1910), through the then recently invented medium of photography between the latter half of the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth centuries. By examining the introduction and adoption of photography in Siam, my study demonstrates how photography was understood, practiced, mediated, mobilised and negotiated as a cultural and political communicative tool, not simply as a colonial technological transfer process. It also investigates how individual photographs project both meaning and agency through imagery and visuality, as well as materiality, elevating the photographs to material objects, which help and enhance the interpretive nuances of this particular representational form.
Moreover, my research examines how photography acted as an agent in assisting the two kings to project their self-reinventions and modern image to the global colonial stage. By doing so King Chulalongkorn consciously developed his sartorial styles from Siamese indigenous, to hybridised and to fully adopted Western men’s fashions and the military dress uniforms of the European courts of the Victorian and Edwardian eras (1830s -1910s), and subsequently, incorporated these into Siamese dress culture, a sartorial cultural exchange.
School of Humanities
MA History of Design, 2015
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Lupt is a trained costume and set designer and was honoured with an Emmy nomination in 2009 for Best Costume Design. He is currently training to be a design historian at The V&A and The Royal College of Art on their MA History of Design course, as part of the Asian Design and Material Culture Specialism. Lupt specialises in nineteenth-century court textiles, dress history, and photography of the Royal Court of Thailand. He is also interested in the interrelationship between dress and politics of the Southeast Asian countries during the colonial expansionism in the region, as well as costume design and film studies.
- BA (Hons) Mass Communications, Chiang Mai University, 1999
- Assistant to costume designer
- Best Graduate Student Paper Award for Southeast Asia 2015; Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference Award, 2015; Anthony Gardner Travel Award, 2015; V&A Fashion History Scholarship Award, 2013; Nominee, PrimeTime Emmy Award, 2009
- 'Modernising the Monarch: The Adoption and Adaptation of Victorian Fashion and Military Dress Uniforms in the Siamese Royal Court of King Chulalongkorn’, Association of Asian Studies annual conference, 2014
- 'Power Dressing: Siam, Burma, China and the Tai', V&A Blog, 2014, http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/research-department/power-dressing-siam-burma-china-and-the-tai