The article offers an overview of Myanmar’s state-sangha interactions in the monarchical and post monarchical period ushering a time when what the author calls a 900 year-old punctuated equilibrium is under stress. An ancient patron-client relationship collapsed when the colonial state refused to sustain the sangha as monarchs had done since the 11th century. Independence ushered further adjustments when the potential patron turned out to be a secular, modern republic with its inherited but also innovative notions of authority, legitimacy and responsibility. The evolution of concepts of state and politics, especially the battle for independence in the turbulent pre-1948 period, further fragmented the sangha, undermining its earlier notional integrity and cohesion thereby enabling for the first time the emergence of a hitherto unfamiliar type, the mobilized and politically active monk. In the first post-independence decade, the new state legislated a closer relationship between the sangha and authorizing institutions. When politics and pieties collided, successive Myanmar governments tried in various ways to make the institution of the sangha more amenable to a modernizing state’s needs. How these influential moves played out in the post 1988 period is the subject of the article’s conclusion. What has been called the Saffron Revolution (2007) is examined by the author in light of the issue of politicization – to argue that what happened was neither saffron, nor a revolution. The issues raised have profound implications for the sangha’s future and cannot be understood without a grasp of the institution’s past.
The article brings to life the adventures of an Anglo-Indian merchant, Henry Gouger, whose Ava sojourn and incarceration during the First Anglo Burmese War (1824-1826) generated years later A Personal Narrative of Two Year’s Imprisonment in Burmah, published in 1860. The author examines what he calls the mentality of a private trader in the 19th century, against the background of the competition between two expanding empires, that of Ava and the English East India Company. By drawing upon the recent literature on travel narratives and cross-cultural encounters, the article restores to Henry Gouger an individuality enabled by liberating his story from the distorting focus on Orientalist stereotypes nefariously furthering colonialist agendas.
The article traces the nomenclature applied to ethnic groups and polities in the early pre modern period, and re examines the first appearance of a name for the ceremonial center known as Pagan. By providing updated readings of epigraphical data derived from Campā, the authors correct an influential misreading of an important inscription known since the 19th century, its misdating traceable to Etienne Aymonier and inserted into the authorized Burmese narrative by Gordon H. Luce. As Griffiths and Lepoutre show, the inscription originated in the 13th century. This correction of the evidence, based on Claude Jacques’ and their own re-evaluation, is expanded to examine the names applied to polities ancient Myanmar may have interacted with.
The author’s attention to early Myanmar inscriptions surviving on Pagan donative stones shows how spacial considerations, fluid spellings and the problematics of inscribing stone slabs and palm leaves generated orthographic conventions. These conventions need to be understood to ensure correct readings of Pagan’s informative stone-written records, from which the kingdom’s history has been reconstructed.