The Dhamma Script Culture Domain as a Contested Space in the Tai-Lao World

Volker Grabowsky
Department of Thai Language and Thai Culture
Asia-Africa-Institute, University of Hamburg


This article seeks to explore first the interconnectedness of the Tai-Lao polities (mueang) in the çDhamma Script Cultural Domainé (DSCD) by focusing on the regionûs historical sources that are imbedded in the manuscript culture based primarily on the unique Dhamma script. This manuscript culture with its distinct local variants was essential for shaping and preserving ethnic identities among the various Tai ethnic groups such as Lao, Tai Yuan and Tai Lue. A short overview of the cultural, political and economic interrelationship within the DSCD will be
provided. Then it will be briefly discussed how the disintegration of the DSCD in the wake of colonialism and the rise of nationalism as well as the emergence of the modern nation-state has been reflected in the narratives of the indigenous historical sources. The central focus will be on the intricate question whether the DSCD can form a meaningful geographical space for the Lao history or the çhistory of the Lao peopleé both with regard the period before the emergence of the modern nation-state and thereafter.

Key words: the Dhamma Script, the Tai-Lao World