HASS Assistant Professor of History Dr Samson Lim has published a new book, Siam’s New Detectives (University of Hawaii Press, 2016). The book was launched at the National Library on 21 April 2017 where Dr Lim presented his key findings.
Professor Peter Jackson of Australian National University presented his views as a discussant. Professor Michael Fischer of MIT also chaired the question and answer session.
The book offers an analytical history of the visual tools – fingerprints, maps, diagrams, photographs, and re-enactments – employed by the Thai police when investigating crime.
It covers the period between the late nineteenth century and the end of the Cold War, providing for the first time in English an overview of the development of modern policing in Thailand. Working through a diverse set of primary sources including police reports and training manuals, trial records, newspaper stories, memoirs, and early Thai language detective fiction, the book argues that the factuality of the visual evidence used in the criminal justice system today stems as much from formal rules, including lighting conventions for crime scene photos and standardized markings on maps, as the reality of the things being represented.
These rules, in turn, were shaped within a global capitalist network of exchange in objects, practices, narrative forms, and aesthetic conventions. What the book shows is that understanding how modern legal systems operate ultimately requires an examination of the evolving transnational visual and material culture of the law.