Thai Villagers as Persons

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Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1979, Vol 24(2), 115–116. Reviews the book, Family Life in a Northern Thai Village: A Study in the Structural Significance of Women by Sulamith Heins Potter (1977). The book provides an evocative minitour in a picturesque part of Southeast Asia. Potter succeeds in presenting ethnographic material in a lively, humanistically oriented manner. For anthropologists, this study no doubt raises important issues concerning social structure. Initially western ethnographers described the Thai family as loosely structured, indeed almost without established roles and norms. Potter uses the term matriline in describing a system through which men join the line of the wife's family upon marriage and after making an appropriate payment. Potter presents individual portraits alongside this vivid picture of family social structure, communal and individual economic activity, political factionalism, and religious observance. As psychologists, we may have more sophisticated techniques of data collection and of statistical analysis but this book stands as a challenge to cross-cultural psychology. Can psychologists provide as rich or richer psychological description of people of another culture? (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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