Organized Panel Session
Numerous “One Tambon, One Product” (OTOP) craft fairs are held every year across Thailand, offering shoppers phantasmagoric performances of “goodness,” “beauty,” and “Thainess.” These ideals are made material and purchasable in the form of locally-produced goods from all 77 provinces, including silks from Surin. Initiated in 2001 under the Thaksin Shinawatra government, the OTOP program provides product development and marketing opportunities for community-based producers at the sub-district level, and it is popularly understood as an initiative to “help the villagers.” The practice of bringing the finest products from a peripheral locality for consumption in a more powerful center resonates with premodern and colonial-era modes of tribute and display.
This paper draws on sixteen months of ethnographic research focusing on the experiences of a particular group of producers whose textiles can be found at nearly every OTOP fair: Khmer silk weavers from Surin Province. When weavers from Surin participate in the OTOP program, they must engage with state-mediated demands for “shimmering surfaces” (author’s term) that conform to standards of technical quality, marketability, and Thai heritage ideals. Although local meanings and creation processes of the textiles are elided, an “ephemeral glimmer” (Tsing 225:2015) nevertheless characterizes the indeterminate relationships forged among producers and their products during the fair. This glimmer illuminates the ethics and aesthetics of precarity within and beyond the neoliberal frame of analysis and OTOP fair context.