McCargo, Duncan 1963-

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McCargo, Duncan 1963-


Born February 21, 1963. Education: University of London, B.A., 1986, M.A., 1990, Ph.D., 1993.


Office—School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Political scientist, educator, writer, and editor. University of Leeds, Leeds, England, professor of Southeast Asian politics. Has also taught at the Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and at Kobe Gakuin University, Japan.


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Research fellow, 1994-99; Leverhulme Trust Fellow, Cambodia, 2004-05; visiting senior research fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, 2006-07.


(With Ramaimas Bowra) Policy Advocacy and the Media in Thailand, Institute for Policy Studies (Bangkok, Thailand), 1997.

Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Contemporary Japan, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000, 2nd edition, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2004.

Politics and the Press in Thailand: Media Machinations, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor) Reforming Thai Politics, NIAS Press (Copenhagen, Denmark), 2002.

Media and Politics in Pacific Asia, RoutledgeCurzon (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor) Rethinking Vietnam, RoutledgeCurzon (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Ukrist Pathmanand) The Thaksinization of Thailand, NIAS Press (Copenhagen, Denmark), 2005.

(Editor and contributor) Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence, NUS Press (Singapore), 2007.

Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2008.

Contributor to books and periodicals, including the Pacific Review.


Duncan McCargo is a political scientist whose expertise is in the politics of Thailand. His primary research interests focus on contemporary Thailand, including issues such as Buddhism, constitutionalism, political reform, the career of Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra, the media, the monarchy, the 2006 military coup, and the violent southern conflict. McCargo has spent extended periods in Thailand. He has studied the language there and spent six months at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science in 1991, where he conducted doctoral research. He also carried out fieldwork on the political role of the Thai-language press in Bangkok for twelve months in 1995-96, and spent a year in Pattani from 2005-06 researching the Southern Thai conflict. He has made dozens of shorter trips to Thailand over the past decade on a variety of issues relating to Thai politics, including political parties, elections, vote-buying, democratic change, media, Buddhism, and regional identity. He has authored and edited numerous books about Thai politics.

In Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics, published in 1997, McCargo examines the popular Thai political figure, whom the author considers to be a pioneer of the "New Thai Politics." Chamlong Srimuang and his colleagues have set out to replace the militaristic and elitist aspects of Thai politics and government rule. According to the author, Srimuang has shown himself to be a charismatic and effective leader in mobilizing efforts that challenge conservative Thai politics. "In McCargo's mind, there is no doubt that Major General Chamlong is an exceptional plebiscitary leader," wrote Alex H. Choi in the Journal of Contemporary Asia—"one who is extremely skillful in communicating with people, capturing their heart and soul, and cultivating the rallying masses."

Politics and the Press in Thailand: Media Machinations examines the intricate relationships that link newspaper owners, editors, and reporters with leading politicians and power holders in Thailand. In his book, McCargo explores the assumption that a free and open media will be professional and prodemocratic. "This volume is an important and welcome addition to the paucity of literature on the Thai media," wrote Neil A. Englehart in Contemporary Southeast Asia, adding that the author "has done an outstanding job of data collection." Journal of Southeast Asian Studies contributor Michael J. Montesano called the book "both refreshing and encouraging."

McCargo is also the editor of Reforming Thai Politics, which presents essays based on presentations from an international conference held in Norway in 1999. The essays examine political reforms in Thailand over the years with an emphasis on electoral reforms beginning in 2000. "Overall … this is a timely book on the ‘new’ Thai politics which certainly contributes a great deal to a better understanding of the political changes in Thailand," wrote Surin Maisrikrod in Contemporary Southeast Asia.

Commenting on McCargo's Media and Politics in Pacific Asia, Robin Jeffrey wrote in Pacific Affairs: "There is much to admire in a book such as this. It is about an important and neglected subject." The book is among the first to provide a detailed account of the political influence exerted by media, both domestic and international, in the Asia-Pacific region. McCargo examines how the media has affected the region in a variety of ways, including as an agent of stability, restraint, or change in countries throughout the region such as Japan, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

McCargo is the author, with Ukrist Pathmanand, of the 2005 book The Thaksinization of Thailand. In the book, the authors write about a tremendously wealthy telecommunications magnate's extraordinary personal dominance over the Thai political scene since 1997. The man's name is Thaksin Shinawatra, and he rose to prominence when the economic crisis of 1997 ended two decades of pluralism in Thai politics and helped usher in the conditions for Shinawatra's landslide election victory in January of 2001. His emergence, along with that of his Thai Rak Thai ("Thais Love Thai") party has, according to the author, rendered previous analyses of the country's politics substantially outdated.

"This book represents a modest attempt to review a number of important issues raised by the premiership of Thaksin Shinawatra," the authors write in the preface. "It makes no claim to be a comprehensive overview of Thaksin, nor is it a political biography. Rather, we focus on five key areas relevant to Thaksin's rise: the telecommunications business, Thai Rak Thai as a political party, the repoliticization of the military, Thaksin's use of language and the media, and his creation of new political economy networks."

Overall, the authors examine Thaksin's background, business activities, and emergence as a political leader along with the Thai Rak Thai party. They write of Thaksin's relationship with the military and his rhetoric in speeches, as well as the future of Thai politics. "This book thickens the plot of Thai studies, its narrative fluid and lively," noted Thitinan Pongsudhirak in Contemporary Southeast Asia. "It should be required reading for anyone who wants to grasp what Thaksin is all about and where Thailand is headed under his watch." Writing in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Andrew Brown noted: "At one level, this book serves as a useful reminder … that a rising class or class fraction cannot simply take hold of and use an existing state apparatus. Rather, to protect and advance its historical interests it must engage in a process of reforming the state, its institutions, functions and ideologies. McCargo and Ukrist's book provides rich insights into how Thaksin has pursued key aspects of this process."

As the editor of Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence, published in 2007, McCargo presents a collection of essays by Thai and international scholars, including the author. The essays examine from a variety of perspectives the reasons behind the growing unrest in southern Thailand. In their analyses, the experts discuss topics such as the ambiguous role of the Thaksin Shinawatra government, alternative theories and explanations for the violence rather than placing all the blame on Muslim terrorists, the salience of political Islam, voices of ordinary people in Pattani, and the misleading paradigms of the insecurity industry. "The two essays by Duncan McCargo and Ukrist Pathmanand are strong critiques of the role of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in creating the conditions that have fostered continued violence after 2004," wrote Fred R. Von Der Mehden in Pacific Affairs. Robert H. Taylor, writing in Contemporary Southeast Asia, called the book "essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary Thai politics."

McCargo told CA: "To date, my favorite book is Politics and the Press in Thailand. I was able to conduct amazingly detailed fieldwork inside the editorial offices of many leading Thai-language newspapers, something no other academic researcher has ever done. I am interested in writing academic books that offer insights drawn from close investigation of salient topics that have not been previously researched in any depth, and this I believe I have clearly done here. I hope that my latest book, Tearing Apart the Land, will have a similar, ground-breaking quality, but I am reserving judgment on the book until there have been some reactions from different sorts of readers.

"I hope that my books will challenge people to rethink simplistic and easy understandings of complex political and social issues in Asia, helping them to see the layers of ambiguity and confusion that I am constantly encountering in my work on Thailand and other countries in the region. I hope my books will inspire people to think critically and to ask themselves provocative and uncomfortable questions that change the way they see the world. I would also like to play a part in setting the agenda for future studies of Thai politics."



McCargo, Duncan, and Ukrist Pathmanand, The Thaksinization of Thailand, NIAS Press (Copenhagen, Denmark), 2005.


Asian Affairs, November, 2003, Robert H. Taylor, review of Media and Politics in Pacific Asia, p. 347; November, 2003, Duncan McCargo, "Monarchy in South-East Asia," p. 344.

Contemporary Southeast Asia, December, 2001, Neil A. Englehart, review of Politics and the Press in Thailand: Media Machinations, p. 569; April, 2004, Surin Maisrikrod, review of Reforming Thai Politics, p. 183; August, 2005, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, review of The Thaksinization of Thailand, p. 327; August, 2007, Robert H. Taylor, review of Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence, p. 386.

Far Eastern Economic Review, November, 2007, Bertil Lintner, review of Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence, p. 64.

International Affairs, March, 2006, Erik Kuhonta, review of The Thaksinization of Thailand, p. 409.

Journal of Asian Studies, August, 2001, Louis G. Perez, review of Contemporary Japan, p. 873; August, 2006, Daniel H. Unger, review of The Thaksinization of Thailand, p. 658.

Journal of Contemporary Asia, August, 2001, Alex H. Choi, review of Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics, p. 400; May, 2007, Andrew Brown, review of The Thaksinization of Thailand, p. 258.

Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, February, 2002, Michael J. Montesano, review of Politics and the Press in Thailand, p. 190.

Law Society Journal, November, 2000, Angela Mende, review of Contemporary Japan, p. 86.

Pacific Affairs, fall, 2004, Robin Jeffrey, review of Media and Politics in Pacific Asia; spring, 2006, Pitch Pongsawat, review of The Thaksinization of Thailand; summer, 2007, Fred R. Von Der Mehden, review of Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 1998, review of Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics, p. 40; May, 2000, review of Contemporary Japan, p. 33; February, 2008, review of Rethinking Thailand's Southern Violence.


Japan Today, (March 14, 2008), Henry Hilton, "Thailand's Surrogate Strongman," review of The Thaksinization of Thailand.

University of Leeds Thai Politics Web site, (April 28, 2008), faculty profile of author.

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McCargo, Duncan 1963-

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