Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

CSEAS Lecture Series. "Save the Thai Temple”: Wat Mongkolratanaram, the Heteronormative Logics of South Berkeley, and Queering Thai/America

Pahole Sookkasikon, PhD, Paramount+
Friday, November 17, 2023
12:00-1:00 PM
110 Weiser Hall Map
In 2008, “Save the Thai Temple” was formed by a group of first- and second-generation Thai/American youth to fight for the religious rites of Wat Mongkolratanaram — a Theravada Buddhist temple located in Berkeley, California that has been around for over three decades — against neighbors on an adjacent street complaining that the temple’s religious services, specifically, its merit-making services (or tum boon), were “overly detrimental,” “addictive,” and that the smells of Thai food were “offensive.” Such arguments were predicated upon a heteronormative logic anchored within the South Berkeley neighborhood, pervasively emphasizing the Thai temple, its followers in addition to the Thai/American community as both orientalist and queer in nature. In this way, the complainants drew upon outdated and racist imagery, marking and othering the temple and its community through imperial and dated descriptors of race, gender, and sexuality. Drawing upon the incident, this talk examines the aggressions made by the combative neighbors in addition to the resulting actions taken by Wat Mongkolratanaram and “Save the Thai Temple.” I contend that Thai/America and its religious presence in the U.S. are queer “immigrant acts” that reimagine American domesticity, belonging, and how neighborhoods are formed, realized, and policed. I further look at the actions of the Thai/American community as acts of necessary survival, ultimately queering the racial and sexual undercurrents that inform the compulsory heterosexuality of Berkeley, California as well as notions of Thainess within and beyond the United States.

Pahole Sookkasikon, Ph.D. received his doctorate from the Department of American Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. His work focuses on the ways that contemporary Thai popular culture and performance queer notions of Thainess informed by Western economies of desire and nation-state practices of respectability. He holds a M.A. in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State University and has helped cultivate and has fought for the necessity of Thai America within the field and scope of Southeast Asian American Studies. He currently works as a content researcher for Paramount Streaming.

Register at
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: American Culture, Asian Languages And Cultures, center for southeast asian studies, Cseas Lecture Series, Discussion, Lecture, Southeast Asia, thailand
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Southeast Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures

International Institute Programming

The International Institute’s centers sponsor numerous conferences, lectures, exhibits, and cultural performances throughout the year. These events are designed to educate the university community and the public about global issues and inspire discussion and dialogue. 

Sign up to receive our monthly e-newsletter.