SILPAKORN UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, HUMANITIES, AND ARTS, Vol 14, No 3 (2014)

Parasol: Visual Trope of Protection, Attraction, and Identification in Thai Womanhood Formation

Piyaluk Benjadol




Abstract


In this research, eight visual representations of women holding parasols in Thai pre-school alphabet primers dating from between 1922 and 1977 are thoroughly analyzed, as the main resources, in order to reveal connotative meanings and their relations to Thai femininity discourses. Visual rhetoric, social semiotics, and multimodal critical discourse analysis frameworks are used as analytical tools. Besides functioning as a protective device against rain or sunlight, the parasol has long been connected to cultural and social ideologies, especially those referencing femininity. Through extensively analyzing paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations of visual features chosen to represent women holding a parasol in Thai alphabet primers, implicit meaning potentials about protection, attraction, and identification are found. Consequently, the power relations among participants involved under patriarchy are disclosed. As secondary resources, other media with images of women holding parasols, such as magazine advertisements, book covers, newspaper covers, collectible cards, movie posters, and news photographs are contextually investigated as well. The discovered pattern and network of a “parasol” visual trope in various social practices reveals how these femininity discourses are repeatedly and perpetually disseminated in Thai society.

Keywords: femininity discourse; parasol; Thai alphabet primer; visual
semiotics

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