Abstracts by Author

Chie Ikeya

Volume 10
"The 'Traditional' High Status of Women in Burma: A Historical Reconsideration" pp.51-81

This article traces the genealogy of a persistent cultural stereotype that has long defined and constituted academic and popular knowledge about Burma and, more broadly, Southeast Asia: the “traditional” high status of women. Although Southeast Asia scholars today generally concur that claims about the high status of women in the region are oversimplified and problematic, postcolonial scholars of Burma largely have perpetuated the discourse of gender equality, which has deterred any attempt to complicate conceptualizations of gender relations and hierarchies in historical Burma.

This study investigates the process whereby the “traditional” autonomy of Burmese women was constructed in opposition to the likewise “traditional” subordinate status of women in South Asia and in contestation of the superiority of European culture and society. It argues that this “tradition” is a product of the multivalent representational practice by colonizing and colonized women and men in unequal relations of power who coauthored essentially and powerfully gendered discourses of colonialism, modernization, and nationalism. This article concludes by suggesting possible ways to move beyond the practice of enshrining persistent and monolithic cultural stereotypes as essential components of Southeast Asian history and to engender scholarship of the region firmly located within, not isolated from, specific and complex historical contexts.

Volume 14
"The Scientific and Hygienic Housewife-and-Mother: Education, Consumption and the Discourse of Domesticity" pp.59-89

This article examines the development of a discourse on modern domesticity in colonial Burma that not only emphasized the role of a woman in safeguarding the health and welfare of her family and nation, but also associated housewifery and motherhood with “domestic science,” medicine, and hygienic behavior. The article shows that two cultural and didactic institutions, one formal and the other informal, served to disseminate this discourse on modern domesticity: “secular” government-funded co-educational schools and the popular press. It reveals that the emergence of the ideal of the scientific and hygienic housewife-and-mother was not simply an effect of a unilateral and hegemonic process of imperialism. Rather, it is best understood as a phenomenon informed simultaneously and conjointly by “Western” and cosmopolitan notions of scientific progress, bodily discipline and hygiene, bourgeois femininity, and health technologies, and the rise of consumer culture, aided by the spread of illustrated printed material, especially advertisements.

Ralph Isaacs

Volume 13
"Rockets and Ashes: Pongyibyan as Depicted in Nineteenth-and Twentieth Century European Sources" pp. 107-136

This article describes the Burmese festival of pongyibyan, the ceremonies at the cremation of a senior monk, mainly by collating written accounts and photographs by Europeans who witnesses pongyibyan in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Certain rites of the pongyibyan ceremony offer interesting parallels to accounts of the Buddha’s own funeral found in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. This article cites descriptions of the preparation of the monk’s corpse by evisceration, embalming, lacquering, wrapping in cloth and gilding, including descriptions of both the simple inner coffin and elaborate outer coffin, and the mortuary chapel (neibankyaung) where the body lay in state awaiting crema