“Important Kings of Laos”: Translation and Analysis of a Lao Cartoon Pamphlet


“Important Kings of Laos”: Translation and Analysis of a

Lao Cartoon Pamphlet


Volker Grabowsky (University of Hamburg, Germany) and Oliver Tappe (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany)




The search for national heroes and a glorious national past is a crucial aspect of nation-building strategies in many postcolonial states (cf. Anderson 1991; Smith 1999). In the case of Laos, especially the history of the old kingdom of Lan Sang provides heroic figures that are highlighted as examples for modern state leaders.


Interestingly, some of the famous kings have been celebrated under the constitutional monarchy as well as under socialist rule in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR). With the re-traditionalization (cf. Evans 2002a; 2008) of Lao politics in recent years, the country faces intensified state activities dedicated to the creation of an official national hero pantheon. Most notably, the LPRP erects statues of so-called national ‘ancestors’ (Lao: banphabulut) including both prominent revolutionary leaders and outstanding kings from pre-colonial times such as Cao Anuvong (cf. Ministry of Information and Culture 2002). However, this project is inherently ambivalent since it emblematizes the LRPR’s attempt of utilizing the legacy of the old Lao kingdoms and the Lao Buddhist cultural heritage as one source of historiographical and iconographical strategies of selflegitimization.


The historical role of the revolutionary struggle – the hitherto main legitimatory base for the present regime – then appears ambivalent as well since the revolution of 1975 marked the end of Lao monarchic traditions and entailed a period of cultural-religious decline. Yet, the state project of uniting selected kings and revolutionaries alike into a single genealogy of ‘patriotic ancestors’ of the Lao nation emphasizes historical continuity. One striking project is a statue of the famous king of Vientiane who fought against the Siamese in the early nineteenth century: Cao Anuvong. He belongs to the illustrious row of heroic Lao kings from the pre-colonial past who are remembered today as brave and patriotic leaders of the so-called “Lao multi-ethnic people” (see Grabowsky forthcoming; Tappe 2008). The selection of Anuvong as a role model for the present leadership remains, however, highly problematic as his insurrection against Bangkok culminated in a crushing defeat and the almost complete destruction of Vientiane. To explore this issue, the authors here offer a close study of a lavishly illustrated booklet entitled Sat lao khon lao: adit lae pacuban (Lao nation, Lao people: Past and present). The book, written by the amateur historian Dr Phuthòng Saengakhom (2000), portrays Lao history as a sequence of ‘great kings’ starting with Fa Ngum, founder of the Lao kingdom of Lan Sang. Though the twentieth-century Lao monarchs are excluded, the inclusion of Prince Phetsarat, the former viceroy of Luang Prabang and father of Lao independence and the ‘Red Prince’ Suphanuvong, figurehead of the Pathet Lao movement and the first president of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) ensures a continuous line to Kaysone Phomvihane and his heirs (e.g., Choummaly Sayasone and Bouasone Bouphavanh). The appendix to the article provides the full text of the original document.





0 Poster un commentaire

A découvrir aussi

Inscrivez-vous au blog

Soyez prévenu par email des prochaines mises à jour

Rejoignez les 15 autres membres