Luk Khrueng Generation
Luk Khrueng Generation is an on-going research project about mixed-Thai people.
In Thai, Luk Khrueng literally means half-child, it is commonly used to refer to a person who has one Thai parent and one foreign parent.
The construction of this word and the connotations attached to it induce the representation of Luk Khruengs as the others.
Historically, Luk Khruengs were marginalized in Thai society. They were mainly considered children of prostitution, especially during the Cold War, when American G.I.s arrived on the coasts of Thailand.
But in the last decades, these half-children have become a unique social phenomenon — adored by the media, and omnipresent in showbiz.
The luk khrueng phenomenon became a quintessential mirror of Thai society: revealing its fantasies, frustrations, and nationalism. The video and the photo series question luk khruengs from diverse backgrounds about their social construction. How do they shape identity navigating between cultures? And what are the stakes specific to Thai culture?
Luk Khrueng Generation explores the process of the creation of one’s identity intimately. Still, it also reveals to be a window to read different social dynamics in Thailand. How the Luk Khruengs are perceived or perceive themselves is the result of structural processes. These include social stratification, discrimination, and beauty standardization.
If the subjects seem lonely, contemplative, or aloof, it is only the photographer’s visual re-transcription of shared testimonials.
This intimate dimension is translated into a more imaginary, subconscious, and immersive form through the use of Augmented Reality. A sort of play with technology to embrace new ways of storytelling.
HelenI am half Thai half Swiss, but I have lived all my life in Thailand. I come from Nong Khai, in Isaan, Northeastern Thailand. Sometimes, people I meet in Bangkok are scornful when they learn I come from Isaan. Because this region is the poorest in Thailand and there is the stigmas that people from Isaan come do lower in Bangkok, that prostitutes come from there and that generally we are “little hands people”.
OdetteWhen I was a child, there were not as many luk khruengs. People used to make fun of me as the farang (the foreigner) I hated going to school. Then I started having other mixed and foreigner friends, and everything got better.
I was lucky to have a career as a singer, an actress and a model. I belong to the first generation where being a luk khrueng was “fashionable”. I deeply know that if I had not been luk khrueng, I would not have had this professional path. Sincerely I do not find myself that beautiful, but I know Thais think so just because I am mixed.
VeronicaGrowing up, especially in a small town in Italy,
I was one of only two half Asian kid.
And people used to confuse us all the time.
They used to think we were the same person.
It was difficult for me because I felt I did not have
anybody else around me who looked like me.
I have a brother and a sister, but they’re from my father’s previous marriage so they are full Italian.
And in Italy walking down the street, people would yell at me
“Chinecina chinecina chinecina ! ” and I would come to Thailand and my own family, my own cousins,
would call me “farang farang quinock”
(“stranger, stranger, bird poo”).
So it was an incredibly alienating experience as a child
and I felt alone, a lot.
VeeI am mixed Thai, Lao, Chinese and French. At school people used to call me “the pale monkey”. I was taller, and paler than anyone else. One day my mum asked me :
“- Why do you always sit in the sun ?
- It’s because I want to get darker. I want to have tan skin, dark skin like my friends. Because I am very weird at school. I am like an outsider.”
So I would always stay in the sun, but the funny thing is, even at the beach, it changed nothing. I’ve always stayed as pale.
ReikaI am half Thai, half Japanese. I have always felt in between two worlds. As a sort of cameleon. The big problem in my life is that my parents gave me two completely different names and surnames. One was Nate Nidhiprabha for my Thai papers, and the other was Reika Kobayashi for my Japanese documents. Officially I’m like the perfect secret agent, but I have always struggled to introduce myself to people. As if I did not have one immutable identity. How can you stay sane in your mind when you have a duplication of your identity, until your own names ? If you have mixed-kid, please, don’t do the same mistake. Don’t give them two different official names.
SarahIt’s funny because I am a barman, and people always try to guess my origins. Most of the time, they think I am Mexican because of my American accent. So I play a little game with them : they get 3 chances to guess where I am from and I give them a shot. So far, no one has ever succeeded.
ClaireI have always lived in Bangkok, and yet my Thai is not perfect because I have done all my schooling at an international school. My father is Irish, and yet I have an American accent. We can say language has become problematic in my native countries.
For my friends it’s a bit the same thing. Sometimes between us we speak “Tinglish”.
I don’t identify myself as a Thai, nor to a Westerner completely. Actually, I identify myself more to what we call a “Third Culture Kid”. These people who grew up abroad, away from their parents’s native countries, and for whom their identity transcends borders. At the end they come from everywhere around the world, but it’s with them that I identify myself the most.
AbbeyInitially I did not speak Thai
I was so young it did not really bother me because
in Japan I was always a “gaijin” which means foreigner
and in Thailand I was always “farang” which is also foreigner.
So, I just thought that’s who I was.
PingI had a complex being Asian.I did not feel good in my own skin
I was seeing myself as a French man.
It was only when I looked at myself in the mirror
that I saw an Asian man. Otherwise I was white.
I’ve always seen myself as white. All my friends were white.
I really did not see myself as an Asian.
To the point that my cousin, who is full Asian,
was forbidden to hang out with me because I was “too white”.
I was a bad influence because I was too white.
I was so ashamed of being Asian, that I wanted to erase my eyes.
NozomiI am half Thai half Japanese, but luk khruengs are mainly seen as Caucasian, with a beautiful face. When Thais talk about luk khruengs, it’s because they see them on the TV. So for a long time I didn’t not consider myself as a luk khrueng.
AaronI was born and raised in London. My father is British with Caribbean origins, and my mum is Thai. I don’t feel connected to a particular place. I like being in the outside of things. Actually I feel like a nomad. It’s a great feeling to not feel attached to a specific place and to adapt easily.
When I arrived in Thailand, people did not hide their racism. It’s a daily frontal discrimination with advertisements, whitening beauty products, and during public transports when no one dares sitting next to me. As if they were scared.
ClayMy father is Canadian and my mum is Thai. Living in Montreal was weird, because as an Anglophone, you’re kind of an outsider. I felt I wanted to belong somewhere. So that’s why I tried Thailand. When I was 6, I did not really know how to speak Thai or English. I kind of understood both, but I did not really speak. I was in the outskirts of both. So I’ve always felt I was in a cloud.
PukkeeWhen I was a child, there were some racist people
But I had a friend who was Thai, and she always told me
“It does not matter, you are Thai too. You speak Thai fluently like others.”
So I tried my best to be myself, to be Thai, even though from outside my appearance does not look Thai.
I think Thailand opened up a lot recently. Especially for black people. So I got some opportunities as a model. It’s hard to find a black model in Thailand, so I get a lot more work opportunities.
Now there’s much more diversity than before, the situation is improving.