ISBN: 9788776940034

Childbirth and Tradition in Northeast Thailand: Forty Years of Development and Cultural Change


Anders Poulsen

2007, 284 (xvii + 267) pp. 22x21 cm
83 photographs, 3 maps, 21 tables

Anders Poulsen's term as a UNESCO expert ended in 1962, but he has returned to the same area of Northeast Thailand many times since, most recently in 2005. As such, this beautifully illustrated volume offers a rare study of Isaan‐Thai customs and belief associated with pregnancy and birth and how they have changed over almost half a century.

Using a psychological and socio‐therapeutic framework, Anders Poulsen discusses the function of various birth rites as well as giving an unmatched description of all traditions specifically connected to pregnancy and birth. He includes an interesting description of the tradition of confinement by fire (yuu‐fai) and documents that it is still widely practiced, contrary to what has been reported. He also puts forward a theory of why some traditions maintain their importance while others fade away.

The findings of this study are supported by the transcription in Isaan (and translated into English) of the ritual texts that are used in these rites.

What others are saying

“Dr Poulsen's book is a meticulous report of change over time in Baan Phraan Muean village, and of the behavioral and cultural response of the villagers. This work has broad relevance for helping us understand the psychological impacts of social change, and learn how to mitigate their harm, particularly as the pace of change quickens and reaches into preciously remote areas. The design and visual appeal of the book captivates the reader and opens a fascinationg window on Thai village life.” — Lisa M. Vandemark, Journal of the Siam Society

“The distinctive feature and achievement of Anders Poulsen’s study is that it is longitudinal in scope, spanning some forty years … For this reason alone it is unique in the social science ethnographic literature pertaining to Thailand, Laos, Burma (and possibly the rest of Southeast Asia) … It is a tour de force, unmatched by any other account pertaining … first to Northeast Thailand and Laos, and then to Thailand as a whole”  — Stanley J. Tambiah, Harvard University


  • A unique longitudinal study spanning some forty years of childbirth practices, cultural change and social development in northeast Thailand
  • Publishes (and acts to preserve) rare information on precious customs and rites related to pregnancy and childbirth in northeast Thailand
  • Advances a theory of why some traditions maintain their vitality while others fade away
  • Includes ritual texts in Isaan‐Thai with English translations

About the author

Anders Poulsen was born in 1925 and received his Teacher’s Certificate in 1947 and his M.A. in Psychology in 1957. He has long worked in the field of child psychology, in which he is well known internationally. Through out his career he has been involved in official and semi‐official commissions dealing with his development of the Danish educational system. He was the founding president for the International School Psychology Association (ISPA) 1982–1984 and the Executive Secretary for ISPA 1984–2006 along with being as honary doctor from Srinakharinwirot University, Bangkok in 1988.

This book derives from his involvement in a UNESCO‐funded project in 1961–62 in Isaan, to which he has returned freqently since then to study the experience and rich culture related to pregnancy and childbirth in the area.


    Thailand | Northeastern Thailand | cultural studies | folklore | religion | development studies