Journal of Burma Studies - Volume 12

Journal of Burma Studies'Bodawpaya's Madness': Monastic Accounts of King Bodawpaya's Conflict with the Burmese Sangha: Part One"
Patrick Pranke

In the early nineteenth century, a conflict between the Burmese king, Bodawpaya (r. 1782-1819) and his council of monastic leaders led to the temporary persecution and suppression of the Burmese sangha. Historical research into the affair has relied for the most part on early European reports and more recently on Bodawpaya's own royal orders to come to an understanding of the motives and objectives of the king's actions. This article a somewhat different approach by exploring the incident as it was seen through the eyes of the monastic community. Citing both contemporary sources and later nineteenth- and twentieth-century historical retrospectives, this article discusses the issues deemed important by the sangha in terms of its perceived legitimacy, its role in the world as an agent of salvation, and its prerogatives as an institution vis-¨¤-vis the Buddhist state. This information, important in its own right, also helps to clarify the motives that informed the king's behavior, as well as allows a more critical assessment of western accounts of the controversy. The apologetics presented in the monastic narratives are technical and imbedded in a conceptual universe that merges the religious, the cosmological, and the political, and as such require a familiarity with Theravada scholasticism and the Burmese Buddhist world view to be understood. Implicitly, this article argues for the utility of such kinds of Buddhist cultural literacy in the study of Burmese religious history and in Burma studies more generally.

"Festivalizing Thingyan, Negotiating Ethnicity: Burmese Chinese Migrants in Taiwan"
Hsin-chun Tasaw Lu

Cultural performances at ethnic festivals in an immigrant context are often seen to represent the ideologies of ethnic identity tied to the performers' ancestral homeland. This article examines how Burmese people of Chinese descent (hereafter Burmese Chinese) in Taiwan negotiate their ethnic identity between pan-Burmese and pan-Chinese models as exemplified in their presentation of a Burmese festival called Thingyan. The author's objective is to pinpoint some issues in the representation of diasporic ethnicity and the politics of return migration. Return migrants have returned to their ancestral homeland after having been settled in foreign countries for generations, entangling complex ethnic politics, in which the identification with a home is frequently contestable. The issues discussed touch on a range of domains, in particular the study of diaspora, performances, and cultural tourism, with a primary disciplinary orientation in ethnomusicology. The emphasis on "festivalizing" is on the festive and celebratory aspect of these events through which Burmese Chinese have successfully promoted their ethnic identity in their new home: Taiwan. By analyzing the festival's performances, this case study aims to theorize the ethnic politics of returning migrants, as well as to examine the ethnic performances at sites where identities are negotiated and shaped. These identities are indeed subject to the ever-changing representations and interpretations of groups and individuals within ethnic politics at the different levels embedded in their double diasporic experiences.

"Legal Education in Burma since the mid-1960s"
Myint Zan

[complete unedited version]

This article reports on and analyzes developments in Burmese legal education since the mid-1960s. Among others it analyzes the method of admission to various law courses, an overview of and commentary on the course syllabi and the teaching methods and delivery of legal education. The article examines the correspondence courses or distance legal education courses offered since 1975 and the ostensible switch from Burmese to English as a medium of instruction to gauge their effectiveness. The research methodology adopted is based, among others, on the author's own experiences as a law student at Rangoon Arts and Science University. For a more contemporaneous report and analysis, the author also studied the distance education materials prepared for various law courses. He sat in and observed the teaching in both undergraduate (Bachelor of Laws) and post graduate (Master of Laws) classes and conducted interviews with academic staff, undergraduate, and postgraduate students as well recent law graduates and lawyers. The author describes and comments on the course requirements and teaching methods of the postgraduate Master of Laws and Doctor of Philosophy (in law) programs. He also describes and analyzes the format, content, and quality of the seminars for the PhD presentations (regarding the theses), and gives possible suggestions for improvement. From this retrospective of the past four decades of Burmese legal education, the author avers that there are no grounds for optimism as regards future prospects.