Abstracts by Author
"The Coming of the âFuture King: Burmese minlaung Expectations Before and During the Second World War" pp.1-32
Throughout the history of Burma we come across rebellions often led by so-called âfuture kings,â minlaungs. In western historiography, minlaung-movements are usually attributed to the pre-colonial past, whereas rebellions and movements occurring during the British colonial period are conceived of as proto-nationalist in character and thus an indication of the westernizing process. In this article, the notion of minlaung and concomitant ideas about rebellion and the magical-spiritual forces involved are explained against the backdrop of Burmese-Buddhist culture. It is further shown how these ideas persisted and gained momentum before and during World War II and how they affected the western educated nationalists, especially Aung San whose political actions fit into the cultural pattern of the career of a minlaung.
Oliver B. Pollak
âRobert Talbot Kelly and 'Picturesque' Burma" pp.35-45
Robert Talbot Kelly, through his art and his 1905 publication, Burma Painted and Described, provides a visual and textual account of colonial Burma that was subsequently marketed in England and America. Travelogues served as a form of voyeuristic education about the exotic for the stay-at-home adventurer. Postcolonial scholarship, to some degree assisted by Edward Said's Orientalism, now permits a reanalysis of both the art and the written texts of travel literature for what they say about cultural attitudes during the age of high imperialism, and in particular about Kelly's use of the word picturesque as a literary and artistic descriptor.
"The Seven Weeks: A 19th Century Burmese Palm-Leaf Manuscript" pp.255-267
This paper describes in detail aspects of a rarely viewed palm-leaf manuscript illustrating classical Burmese cosmology. This manuscript, BC.9641A-025-031, dating from Burmese Era 1256 (CE1894), is a part of the Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University. This study analyzes only eight leaves, of which the focal image is reproduced as the cover illustration of the latest Journal of Burma Studies (14). The visual analysis based in part on our translation of the texts incorporated within the various illustrations provides a key to understanding the iconography of the Seven Sites, or the Seven Weeks Preceding the Buddhaâs Enlightenment; as combined with the symbolic geography of the Sixteen Sacred Lands. Although the present work concentrates only on the events around the Enlightenment, the complete manuscript comprises a 110 page folio (some 55 folded leafs), including depictions of Mount Sumeru and the Three Realms, the Lake Anotatta and the Four Rivers, and the cross section of the Four Islands and the Buddhapada.
"Comparison of Three Pottery Villages: Shan State Burma" pp.45-82
During my visit from 1991-1994 to three pottery-producing villages in Shan State, I was struck by the differences in technology and product. Contrary to my assumption that this small area would evidence a shared technology and similar products, I found three distinctly differing pottery traditions. In some places in the world, membership in the same ethnic group seems to be an important factor in determining the techniques and products of the potters belonging to that group. However, two of these villages, Compani and Awe Yaw, are both populated by Danu and have distinctly different ways of making pots. While it is primarily concerned with the pottery-making processes in the three villages, this article is also interested in the lives of the potters and how they face the challenges inherent in their craft.
"Pottery in the Chin Hills" pp.35-60
During my research on contemporary pottery villages in Burma, I was given the name of one such village, Lente, by a native now living in the United States. Lente is located in the Chin Hills, a remote area of western Burma difficult to access, inhabited by many tribes speaking a large number of languages. Foreigners are rarely given permission to visit the Chin Hills, and although I obtained permission to travel to Lente, I was ultimately prevented by the authorities from going further than nearby Falam. I was nevertheless able to collect data from Lente in three ways: first, my guide Daw Moe Moe was able to visit Lente and take photographs of the potters there; secondly, Daw Moe Moe was able to return to Falam with a potter from Lente village and with enough of the proper kind of clay to facilitate a demonstration which I photographed and documented; and thirdly, I was given a copy of a videotape showing the potters working in Lente village. This tape was taken by a young man from Falam who is interested in recording local crafts processes. The tape allowed me to observe a process of making pots with which I was totally unacquainted, and which has otherwise escaped recent photographic or video documentation. This was a true "discovery" concerning the ways in which pots can be made, and still another indication of the imagination and ingenuity of humankind.
"The Alchemist and his Ball"
Alchemy plays an important part in Burmese Buddhism as one means, among several, of gaining access to salvation. The practice of alchemy figures centrally in a specific religious orientation, the path of the superman (weikza lan) that offers a way to reach nirvana through seeking near-immortality. Within this ideological frame, defined by the ultimate horizon of deliverance, alchemy makes it possibleâby means of understandings, technical manipulations, and the forces with which it dealsâfor the practitioner to act upon his person through the intermediary of a material double, the ball which serves as the object of alchemical activity, allowing him in this way to become the master of his own being and gain some control over his fate. Alchemy appears to be a form, religiously defined and socially meaningful, of self-making.