The Changes of Identity of Undertakers in Urban Communities in Nakorn Si Thammarat Province

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Damrongphun Jaihowweerapong
Kettawa Boonprakarn
Nattapong Jitniratana


            This article is aimed to study the changes of identity of undertakers working in urban communities in Nakorn Si Thammarat province during 1957 - 2018 by using qualitative research methodology and identity approach. Data was collected from documents, non-participant observation, and in-depth interviews with elderly people, monks and undertakers working in crematoriums in Wat Chamao, Wat Boonnarop (Jampakhom), and Wat Chonchanian (Chaikhlong) in Muang district. Data was classified, interpreted, concluded and presented by descriptive analysis.

            Results reveal that there are many reasons why people became an undertaker: some followed in their father’s footsteps, some had experiences in cremation as a monk and became an undertaker after resigning from the monkhood, others worked as temple workers before coming to the career. Characteristics of undertakers in each period were found to be quite different. In bier period (1957 - 1977) undertakers were churlish, scary, and a master of rituals and spells. They ate the remaining food from monks; slept in temple pavilions, using shroud as a blanket; and had temple dogs as companion. Nevertheless, they were a trustworthy person, not an evil-doer. In firewood crematory period (1977 - 1987) undertakers were crematory staff, using magic spells and a sorcerer’s magic knife in their work. In cremation furnace period (1987 -2018) undertakers wear suits, use cell phone, make profits from the dead, and yet they respect rules and law of karma. Some are cremation furnace technicians or are engaged in other side business


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