Pasuth Thothaveesansuk is a doctoral student in global history. Originally from Bangkok, Thailand, he received his bachelor’s degree in history and German studies from the University of Virginia and is expected to receive his master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill this May.
What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?
I chose Carolina for graduate school because I believe the history department here has the appropriate breadth and depth necessary to support my research. It is not always that a department is strong in so many different subfields and geographical areas. Getting to work with faculty and fellow graduate students with varying interests from diverse backgrounds has been greatly beneficial to my academic career. I also think Chapel Hill is an absolutely charming college town and a wonderful place to call home for a few years.
Tell us about your work.
I am a historian of the Cold War with particular interests in Germany, East Asia, and also globally. For my master’s thesis, I wrote about West German relations with China during the Cold War and how West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s new Ostpolitik extended to the Far East. While most remember Ostpolitik only as West Germany’s diplomatic normalization with East Germany and the Soviet Union, I argue that West German détente also included Asia. It shows that West Germany had a global foreign policy beyond European affairs. For China, this Asian Ostpolitik enhanced its international legitimacy and marked another step in its turn away from the Soviet bloc. Extending Ostpolitik to East Asia also contributed to the international effort to ease hostilities in a region ravaged by violent Cold War conflicts. Looking forward to my dissertation, I intend to situate Ostpolitik more broadly within an agenda for global peace and how that relates to contemporaneous concerns about security and international development.
What are some of your favorite places and things to do in your home country?
Eat! For good reasons, Bangkok is well known for its culinary offerings—it is impossible not to find delicious food in any corner of the city. As much as I love the college town life, living in Chapel Hill has definitely made me better appreciate what a large city has to offer. While Bangkok is a bustling metropolis, the old city and its beautiful temples (and food) definitely hold a special place in my heart.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
The dream is definitely to teach history at the college level. As someone who works on contemporary political and international history, I would also like to help craft and influence global policy should the opportunity arise. As a historian, I hope that the stories I tell will foster a more global understanding of our world.