Thongchai Winichakul (Thai: ธงชัย วินิจจะกูล; RTGS: Thongchai Winitchakun; IPA: [tʰōŋ.tɕʰāj wí.nít.tɕà.kūːn]; born 1957), is a Thai historian and researcher of Southeast Asian studies. He is professor emeritus of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a chief senior researcher at the Japanese Institute of Developing Economies. He was the president for the Association for Asian Studies in 2013. He has had a major impact on the concept of Thai nationalism.
Thongchai is of Sino-Thai descent, was born and grew up in Bangkok. He was a student organizer and political activist while still in high school. He became even more involved in pro-democracy movements while in his first two years as an undergraduate at Thammasat University in Bangkok. Student and labor organizing had blossomed during and after the popular uprising of 14 October 1973.
But following the return of disempowered military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn and the resignation of Prime Minister Seni Pramoj, Thongchai and other student leaders organized a fresh wave of protests centered at Thammasat University. These culminated in a large rally that grew through the night of 5 October 1976. The next morning, 6 October, the Thai military surrounded the Thammasat campus and attacked the students in what has been described as the "Thammasat University massacre" in which at least 46 people were killed, some even being raped, hung, or burned to death. Many students escaped. Thousands of students were arrested, though 19 were eventually imprisoned, including Thongchai. Various organizations, including Amnesty International, advocated for his release as a prisoner of conscience. He was released on 16 September 1978 and allowed to return to finish his education at Thammasat on the condition that he was not involved in further political activities. He later went to Sydney, Australia, for his graduate education.
Thongchai completed his Bachelor of Arts degree with first class honors from Thammasat University in 1981. He received his master's degree with honors from University of Sydney in 1984. In 1988, he was conferred his doctoral degree from the same university. Subsequently, he returned to Bangkok to lecture at Thammasat University until 1991.
He was then appointed assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin. He remained in Madison, being promoted to associate professor in 1995, and full professor in 2001. He was assigned to both the Department of History and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Among other positions, he served as director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies from 1997 to 1999, and director of graduate studies of the Department of History from 2008. He retired as professor emeritus in 2016.
His best-known academic work is his book Siam Mapped, published in 1994, which critiqued existing theories of Thai historiography. In its Japanese translation, the book won the Grand Prize of the 16th Asian Pacific Awards from the Asian Affairs Research Council. According to the Sojourn journal, it is one of the "most influential books of Southeast Asian Studies".
Since 1991, he has been a member of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), chairing its Southeast Asia Council and serving on its executive board in 1996–1997. In 2012, he was vice president of the AAS, and in 2013, president. In 1994, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Thongchai was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003. He was a principal research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore from 2010 to 2012. In 2017, he became a chief senior researcher at the Inter-disciplinary Studies Center of the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE) in Chiba, Japan.
- Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994. (Winner of the 1995 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies)
- "The Quest for 'Siwilai': A geographical discourse of Civilizational Thinking in the Late 19th and early 20th Century Siam", Journal of Asian Studies 59, 3 (August 2000): 528–549.
- "The Others Within: Travel and Ethno-spatial Differentiation of Siamese Subjects, 1885–1910", lead article in Civility and Savagery: Social Identity in Tai States, ed. Andrew Turton, London: Curzon Press, 2000: 38–62.
- "Remembering/ Silencing the Traumatic Past: the Ambivalent Memories of the October 1976 Massacre in Bangkok" in Cultural Crisis and Social Memory: Modernity and Identity in Thailand and Laos, ed. Charles F Keyes and Shigeharu Tanabe, London and New York: Routledge/Curzon, 2002: 243–283.
- "Writing at the Interstices: Southeast Asian Historians and Post-National Histories in Southeast Asia", leading article in New Terrains in Southeast Asian History, ed. Abu Talib Ahmad and Tan Liok Ee, Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002: 3–29.
- Charnvit Kasetsiri (2019). Pavin Chachavalpongpun (ed.). Thai historiography. Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Thailand. Routledge.
- Patrick Jory (March 2003). "Problems in Contemporary Thai Nationalist Historiography". Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia (3). Archived from the original on 2008-02-23.
- Benedict Anderson (1993), Radicalism after Communism in Thailand and Indonesia (PDF), p. 13, archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-08-13
- Kevin Khoo Teng Yang (2012), "Discuss the following statement: "We talk about sea history being written from a sea perspective. However, most SEAsian historians are trained by Western scholars using Western theories and intellectual tools. Therefore, their scholarship is no more 'indigenous' than that written by Ang Moh."" (PDF), NUS History Society E-Journal: 4, archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-21
- Thongchai Winichakul, Emeritus Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin–Madison.
- "Professor Winichakul Wins Book Award". Center for Southeast Asian Studies. 2004-09-28. Archived from the original on 2006-08-28. Retrieved 2008-04-19.
- Hui Yew-Foong (April 2009). "The Most Influential Books of Southeast Asian Studies". 24 (1): xi. Cite journal requires
- "Thongchai Winichakul, Professor of History" (PDF). Department of History, University of Wisconsin. Archived from the original (Curriculum vitae) on 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2019-01-20.
- Dr Thongchai Winichakul — CV (PDF), Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
- Fellows: Thongchai Winichakul, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
- "Four UW–Madison Professors Honored". Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI). 2003-05-09. p. B3.
- Staff Details: Prof WINICHAKUL Thongchai, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, archived from the original on 2014-05-02
- THONGCHAI Winichakul, Institute of Developing Economies.
- "1995 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies". Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2019-01-20.