In this episode of New Books in Southeast Asian Studies we travel with Craig J. Reynolds to the mid-south of Thailand in the first half of the twentieth century, where we meet with a legendary policeman who trained in martial arts and the occult so as to protect himself in mortal combat with dangerous foes. That policeman was Butr Pantharak, also known as Khun Phan. Though he already has quite a number of biographers in Thai, Reynolds’ Power, Protection and Magic in Thailand: The Cosmos of a Southern Policeman (ANU Press 2019) is the first book to tell the story of Khun Phan’s life and times for English-language readers. It is available for free download from the ANU Press website, where it is accompanied by a series of beautiful videos that build on the contents of each of its chapters, the making of which we discuss in this episode.
Thai-language readers might also be interested in Craig Reynold’s new collection of essays, จดหมายจากสุดขอบโลก คิดคำนึงถึงอดีตในปัจจุบัน (Letters from the Edge of the World: Thinking of the Past in the Present, Sayam Press, 2022), which we talk about at the end of the interview.
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Nick Cheesman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political & Social Change, Australian National University. He hosts the New Books in Interpretive Political & Social Science series and contributes to the New Books in Southeast Asian Studies channel on the New Books Network.