The Third Sex: Kathoey - Thailand's Ladyboys by Richard Totman - review by Justin Marozzi

Justin Marozzi

Angels in Disguise

The Third Sex: Kathoey - Thailand's Ladyboys

By

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Not far into this book, I recalled with a shudder the linguistic assault of studying political science in America. To this day I am haunted by the title of a presentation I was asked to give my fellow postgraduates. It was called 'Spatio-temporal Parameters and the Postulates of Orientational Substitutability'. Try saying something meaningful about that. This dreadful jargon, I ventured, was perhaps the most eloquent proof of the intellectual bankruptcy of political science as a discipline. The professor and students looked at me uncomprehendingly. But then, what could they expect from the Brits?

From political science, it was only a quick ride across campus to social science, another relatively new kid on the block. Like its cousin it has felt the need to invent a whole new language – frequently of the most impenetrable kind – to give it a veneer of academic credibility.

Richard Totman, like many social scientists, is obsessed with methodology. His, he tells us at the outset, is 'a personal, interactive method of doing social research', which means that for the purposes of this book he has spent a lot of time with Thailand's kathoey, more popularly known over here

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