Perception and Practice: The VOC and the Court Culture of Ayutthaya in the Seventeenth and Eigtheenth Centuries
The objective of the research is to study the cultural-intellectual aspect of Europe-Asia encounters in early modern time by investigating - mainly through the Dutch-VOC sources - European perceptions of court culture of Ayutthaya (Siam/Thailand) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Rather than to conclude merely perceptions in philosophical sense, this study also tries to ascertain how these perceptions influenced the conduct of the VOC's policies and the behaviour of its employees in Siam.
The central questions of the investigation are: (1) how did the VOC personnel perceive the culture of the Ayutthayan court, (2) how did these perceptions influence/affect the relationship between the Company and Siam, and (3) how can the perceptions be interpreted within the broader context of the cross-cultural encounters between Asia and Europe and their development in the early modern period?
From the assumption that court culture is an instrument for demonstrating the power of what it serves - the kingship -, and therefore, it is an instrument of communication, three sub-questions need to be asked (1) how the Europeans understood these instruments of power, (2) if they understood the power-relations both within the local society and between themselves and the local government as expressed through court culture, and (3) how this understanding or misunderstanding affected their relationship with the local government.
Prof. Dr. Peter J.A.N. Rietbergen
Dr. Dhiravat Na Pombejra