Abstracts by Author
MATTHEW J. WALTON
The Disciplining Discourse of Unity in Burmese Politics
A concern with unity has been a consistent theme in modern Burmese politics. This article examines a particularly problematic conception of unity that I argue draws strength from its resonance with Buddhist moral notions of the self and overcoming self-centeredness. As a moral concept, this narrative of unity is idealized in devotion to a common purpose and loyalty to a group or community; it requires subsuming one’s own interests for the benefit of the whole, something that encapsulates the Buddhist practice of rejecting atta (ego). Disunity, then, is the result of a group of individuals committed only to their own benefit; it is evidence of moral failure. This discourse of unity has been an effectively anti-democratic disciplining tool (deployed by both governments and opposition groups) for suppressing internal dissent. Despite General Aung San's oft-quoted slogan of “unity in diversity,” political movements in Myanmar have been more commonly characterized by hegemonic attempts at imposing a top-down unity that labels deviation from or criticism of dominant positions as disloyalty. This article examines the perpetuation of a rigid, unitary understanding of unity and argues that developing a more flexible and accommodating notion of unity will be a necessary step in the process of national reconciliation.
Julian Wheatley, with San San Hnin Tun
"Languages in Contact: The Case of English and Burmese" pp.61-99
This article deals with the nature and the effects of the long period of linguistic contact between Burmese and English. Part 1 deals with general issues of contact and borrowing; part 2 provides examples of English loanwords in Burmese, and considers the processes of phonological and semantic accommodation that they reflect.
Win Maung (Tampawaddy) with Elizabeth H. Moore
The Social Dynamics of Pagoda Repair in Upper Myanmar
Pagoda repair in Myanmar is not just a building upgrade but a significant mechanism connecting religious and lay communities. During the course of a renovation, the wider public is engaged, from urban elite to artisans, builders, shopkeepers and farmers in replenishing the dedicated space of the pagoda compound and the teachings it embod-ies. The case studies from Sagaing, Mandalay, Kyaukse and Bagan discussed here highlight how coordination of pagoda repair is often by word of mouth, familiar networks and more recently, social media. Informality is also pertinent in relation to archaeologi-cal calls for greater documentation of pagoda repair. Imposing daily recording could easily change malleable social contacts into disinterested form-fillers, rather than engaging local communities in the shared caretaking of their landscape. While information on archaeological and heritage management “best practice” is abundant, the processes of pagoda repair remains little known apart from the participants of each undertaking. Thus what a decade ago was a locally understood difference between repair and conservation, today is an urgent issue threatening both the vitality of the living Buddhist practice and its intangible heritage. Without a shared mechanism to oversee restorations of aged pagodas, the hard evidence from which to interpret the ancient cultural landscape will be irrevocably lost and its intangible sustenance gone. The issue needs to be openly debated and acted upon to ensure the compatible integration of international conservation and heritage practice with the existing social and religious dynamics of pagoda repair.
"Germans in Burma, 1837–1945" pp.29-69
This article gives an account of the Germans who lived in Burma or who visited the country between the beginnings of British rule in 1826 and the end of World War II. After surveying German-Burmese relations from 1826 until today, the manifold German engagement in Burma before World War I is detailed. This engagement was followed by a sharp decline in the number of Germans living in the country other than for short periods between the two great wars. After World War II, on the German side, there was almost no memory of German activities in Burma left. By contrast the Burmese kept and keep this memory very much alive.