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Chulanee Thianthai


Visiting period: June 2011
Department: Anthropology


Dr. Chulanee Thianthai was born in Central Bangkok in 1974.  She has been inspired to be an anthropologist since she was little.  Part of her childhood years were spent traveling with her dad who at the time was working on his Ph.D. in the United States and was from time to time guest lecturing in Japan.  This has led her to become fond of cultural differences and passionate in studying more about cultures.  Thianthai started her college years at Chulalongkorn University, Faculty of Political Science, majoring in Sociology and Anthropology.  During her senior years, she was granted a scholarship from the Thai Ministry of University Affairs providing her a tenure position as a lecturer in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.  She continued her studies and received a M.A. in Applied Anthropology from Oregon State University and a Ph.D. in Bio-cultural Anthropology from the University of Oregon.  She finished her Ph.D. in 2003 and resumed her position at Chulalongkorn University.  

Currently, Dr. Chulanee Thianthai is a tenure track assistant professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.  Her specialization and research interest cover Business Anthropology, Medical and Nutritional Anthropology, gender differences, and youth culture, particularly among urban population in Thailand.  Her diverse interests have led her to many research publications, such as “Gender and Class Differences in Young People’s Sexuality and HIV/AIDS Risk-taking Behaviours in Thailand” in Culture, Health, and Sexuality, “A Glance into the Life of a Computerized Generation” in  Computing and Philosophy, Cambridge Scholar Press, “Do Male and Female Adolescents View Their Dissatisfaction Body Parts the Same Way?” and “Influential Sources Affecting Bangkok Adolescent Body Image Perceptions” in International Journal of Adolescence Medicine and Health, and “Attitudes and Awareness towards ASEAN: Findings of a Ten-Nation Survey” (conducted upon undergraduate university students) by ISEAS Publishing, co-author with Dr. Eric Thompson.  In her career, she also utilizes her business anthropological knowledge and was offered to be a consultant for museums, food companies, and marketing research companies.  She still continues her love for traveling and giving talks or lectures in other countries. Now after publishing her first book, Business Anthropology, she plans to gather more data from different countries for her second up-coming book entitled “Gender and Management.”   

 As a Cultural Anthropologist whose interest evolved around Medical and Nutritional Anthropology, Business Anthropology, and youth cultures among urban population in Thailand and Southeast Asian counties, Dr. Chulanee Thianthai’s past work and training consultation can be seen in the following segments.  First, her research related to Medical and Nutritional Anthropology started in the arena of viewing how Thai multiple sexual patterns are rooted in patriarchy where double standard cultural values are the cause why some Thais are vulnerable being infected with AIDS.  Moreover, unlike most work in the late 1990’s in this field, she also strives to highlight how class complexity in Thai culture should be noticed—that is Thai teenagers of different classes tend to have different types of sexual partner screening beliefs and risk-taking patterns which lead them to be at risk of HIV/AIDS.  In 2004, she published an article on “Gender and Class Differences in Young People’s Sexuality and HIV/AIDS Risk-taking Behaviours in Thailand” in Culture, Health, and Sexuality, which many works have cited.

Dr. Thianthai has moved on to producing more research that stem from her Nutritional Anthropology background and own curiosity of why female adolescents, particularly in Bangkok Thailand, are skinnier than before and still striving to be on an extreme diet. Many works of hers, “Do Male and Female Adolescents View Their Dissatisfaction Body Parts the Same Way?” and “Influential Sources Affecting Bangkok Adolescent Body Image Perceptions” published in International Journal of Adolescence Medicine and Health and “Insights into Bangkok Elementary Students’ Food Choice on School Days” published in International Journal of Child Health and Human Development attempt to provoke others to gain more insights concerning gender differences, cultural beliefs-relating to body image perceptions and/or eating habits. Not only has her work touched upon how the prevalence of eating disorders and obesity is creeping into Bangkok teenagers, but her work also sheds light on how the cause of ill body image perceptions and/or eating behaviors occurring in Bangkok are slightly different from how most Western countries experienced it.  

Regarding Dr. Thianthai’s interest on youth culture of Southeast Asian countries, particularly among the metropolitans, she has co-researched with Dr. Eric Thompson from the National University of Singapore surveying youth perception concerning ASEAN neighboring countries. Dr. Eric and Dr. Thianthai published an article entitled “Thai Perceptions of the ASEAN Region: Southeast Asia as Prathet Phuean Baan” in Asian Studies Review and published a book for the ASEAN Studies Centre Institute of Southeast Asian Studies entitled “Attitudes and Awareness towards ASEAN: Findings of a Ten-Nation Survey” conducted upon ASEAN undergraduate university students.  Furthermore, in 2008 when there was an Avian Influenza breakout in Asia, she and Dr. Eric conducted an introductory qualitative research workshop to train engineers, health workers, and government officers to brainstorm to come up with an ASEAN Foundation Communication and Information Systems for the Control of Avian Influenza.  Currently, Dr. Thianthai is focusing on gathering more data concerning gender differences in management and continuously engaging herself in expanding her research among the Southeast Asian countries. 

Current research project:
"Gender Differences in Communication and Leadership Style in Germany"

Conference Talk: "Perceptions of Democracy among Thai Adolescents"

 "Perceptions of Democracy among Thai Adolescents" aims at gathering insightful data on what Thai adolescents perceive and define democracy to be, in what way they view Thai democracy to be different from other democratic countries, and how decentralization and democracy should be taught for their generation.  The research data derived from free listing techniques and in-depth interviews of 87 Bangkok males and females, aged 15-23 years old, who came from seven different public high schools and students who enrolled in the Faculty of Political Science in five well-known universities.  Research results have shown how these Thai students associate democracy to tangible objects  namely the Thai constitution, the Thai Democracy Monument, politicians and define democracy through concepts such as majority vote, majority rules, power of the people, open-mindedness, governing power, liberty, rights, election, participation, justice, equality, the people, and social stability.  In addition, Thai adolescents highlighted how Thai democracy is different from other democratic countries due the incorporation of the Thai characteristics of valuing the patronage system, rejecting military interference, shifting value of private interest versus public benefits, deflating social stratification, educating the under-educated on democracy, flexibility of rules and regulations, showing rights, liberty, and participation that is appropriate in Thai view, having a moral leader that is capable of creating a Thai constructive society, and honoring the Monarchy.  In which the aforementioned uniqueness of Thai democracy are suitable for the Thais and crucial for its existence allowing it to be passed from generation to generation.  Lastly, these Thai adolescents view that the most effective ways in teaching their generation about democracy and decentralization is through actual practice at home and in schools, changing school/text curriculum and teaching style to be more exciting by utilizing different types of teaching media/techniques such as using role play, prints, presenters, movie series, games, internet and social networking (i.e. facebook, YouTube).  These channels should be a success because it makes it a reality in their daily life.  In conclusion, this research paper has contributed to a more in-depth understanding of how the young Thai generation views current Thai democracy as well as how it should take form for the future. 


Talk: "Barbie and Big Eyes?: Exploring Beauty Myth and Body Image Changes among Thai Teenagers"

Dr. Chulanee Thianthai’s talk on "Barbie and Big Eyes?: Exploring Beauty Myth and Body Image Changes among Thai Teenagers" derived from her research interest and publications, starting from the year 2004 till present, concerning gender differences on body image issues among Thai teenagers in Bangkok.  Her talk will highlight how body image among teenagers have changed through the generations, what are today’s ideal body images that Thai teenagers are striving for, gender differences in body image perceptions, factors influencing those changes, and how these have resulted in affecting female and male adolescents’ health differently.     




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