Fraser GermAnn

I am drawn to how we understand ourselves and others through the fictional characters we populate our minds with. This interest has taken me to Thailand where I am researching the moral significance of the demon king Totsakan: the main villain of the Ramakien. This story is the Thai version of the Ramayana and it is deeply embedded within Thai culture. To study Totsakan – and his significance within Thai society – I turn to khon, a traditional masked performance that exclusively performs episodes from the Ramakien. There I interview performers and other specialists who know what it is like to embody his thoughts, feelings, and actions onstage. In doing so I explore how the demon is constructed through traditions, like khon, and the heritage practices surrounding them. And in the process I identify the moral messages these traditions and practices imbue him with. I then analyze these messages to understand their implications for the construction of personhood within a Thai Buddhist world.