Friday, January 12, 2024
10 00 am – 11:30 am
Lifelong Learning Center, Payap University, Kaew Nawarat Road
Rice Outside the Paddy: Maurice Rocco’s Expatriate Life and Death in Thailand
About the Presentation:
American jazz pianist Maurice Rocco lived and worked in Thailand for 12 years. For awhile, away from American racism and homophobia, Rocco found safety and commercial success as an expatriate in Bangkok. From 1964 until his murder in 1976, he enjoyed a vibrant second act as a nightlife pianist. During those dozen years, however, ideas about sex and gender, as well as race, changed greatly. The U.S. looked to Thailand as an ally in its fight against communism. In turn, Thailand became a key American ally, and a comfortable place for Americans to be. Rocco lived in the space that resulted. His time in Bangkok traces a shifting society. His murder, which happened precisely when American troops began to withdraw from Thailand, was a tragic reflection of this shift. He led a complex life as a Black, gay farang in Thailand. This talk will not untangle the threads of Rocco’s identity. Rather, we will sit with the messiness, viewing Rocco’s years in Bangkok from several angles. We will consider how musicians lived, worked, and sometimes died in the rough currents of transnational labor during the Cold War.
About the Presenter:
Benjamin Tausig is associate professor of music at SUNY-Stony Brook University. His research focuses on sound and politics in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand. His first book, Bangkok Is Ringing: Sound, Protest, and Constraint, was published in 2019, and adapted into an audio edition the same year. His second book, Bangkok After Dark: Maurice Rocco and Cold War Global Nightlife, is a historical ethnography of cosmopolitan nightlife encounters in Thailand during the long American war in Vietnam, to be published by Duke University Press in 2024. Tausig likes to play basketball and chase his children around.
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