The Myowun's Nap: An Incident in 1852 and the Fall of the Burmese Empire
This article examines a series of events from January 6, 1852, and how they could be tied to a British conspiracy to provoke war with Burma. When a delegation from Lord Dalhousie, Governor-General of the East India Company in Calcutta arrived at the courtyard of the Myowun (Royal Governor of Rangoon), staff informed the delegation that the Myowun was asleep and not to be disturbed. After waiting for fifteen minutes, the delegation left, and the Following an overview of the background to this event, this article explores questions surrounding the supposed nap and its role in history, in particular: 1, whether the Myowun was really asleep; 2, if that was the case, why did his staff not awaken him, and finally 3, had the Myowun received the British delegation, would the future of Anglo-Burmese relations have been different?
The Transnational Flow of Music from Burma to the United States
Some of the most prominent and commercially successful Burmese musicians have performed concert tours of the United States during the past decade. This article provides an empirical description of the transnational network which makes these concert tours possible, and then provides an explanation for this phenomenon. Burmese migrants—both the musicians and the emigrants who sponsor concerts—are identified here as transnational actors. This study, however, challenges much of the literature on transnational cultural flows, arguing that the appropriate focus for analysis in this case is not change and hybridity provoked by conditions in the host country (America), but rather the continuity of shared expectations and behaviors developed in the home country (Burma). In fact, it is the habitus of the Yangon-based music industry which makes possible the organization and funding of concert tours in the United States. This habitus, or shared way of thinking and behaving, includes: a flexible understanding of what constitutes a “band,” symbolic ties between musicians and fans which govern financial expectations, an informally structured industry which is open to the intervention of amateurs, and the habitual self-reliance of people who grew up under a government which provided few supports.
"A Glimpse into the Traditional Martial Arts in Burma" pp.141-152
The traditional martial arts are an aspect of Burmese culture that has been virtually ignored by Burma scholars. Yet these martial arts have a rich heritage dating back to the early days of Burma. Historic events, religion, political necessities, and, more have shaped them recently into economic realities. The traditional martial art came close to extinction during the British colonial period, but was revived during the Japanese occupation. In past times, they were utilized for warfare and self-defense. Today the self-defense element remains, while the combat element has been transformed into sports and artistic cultural expression. The present economic conditions and the spread of foreign martial arts pose a current threat to the survival of the Burmese traditional martial arts and require the attention of Burma scholars to document this important component of the historic cultural identity of Burma.
"Conqueror of Kings: Burma’s Student Leader" pp.33-63
During the democracy uprising in 1988, Paw Oo Htun, whose nom de guerre, Min Ko Naing, means Conqueror of Kings, emerged as one of the movement’s most prominent student leaders. Together with other student leaders, he revived the umbrella students’ organization the All Burma Federation of Student Unions. Today, while serving out a twenty year prison sentence, Min Ko Naing remains a symbol of the Burmese student movement. In this essay, interviews with close friends and student colleagues help document his story.
"A Textbook Case of Nation-Building: The Evolution of History Curricula in Myanmar"
This article aims to analyze the history curriculum used in primary and secondary schools under the SLORC/SPDC from the perspective of the State's nation-building endeavors. To do so, we provide some background on history textbooks during colonial, parliamentary, and socialist eras, and then describe three shifts in discourse on national identity in post-socialist Myanmar: the replacement of Aung San by the Great Kings as main national references, the projection of "Myanmar" identity back in history, and the designation of Thais, along with British colonialists, as historical enemies of the nation. We argue that those shifts constituted a step away from a national identity based on some extent of inter-ethnic compromise, toward one based on an ancient and glorious indigenous essence. We then examine the textbooks of two ethno-nationalist groups, the KNU and the SSA-S to illustrate the discursive similarities across political boundaries.
While revisions of national history are common around the world and might even be a sine qua non for the emergence of a nation, we suggest that the SLORC/SPDC's narrow conception of national identity, coupled with the underfunding of the welfare state and especially education, has often been counter-productive to state aims, undermining the success of schooling as a tool of nation-building and lending legitimacy to radical ethno-nationalist conceptions of history and identity.
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.
"Inoculators, The Indigenous Obstacle to Vaccination in Colonial Burma" pp.91-114
Colonial records on smallpox vaccination point to inoculations and inoculators as among the most serious obstacles to the progress of vaccination. However, despite their apparent importance, those identified as inoculators by the colonial medical officers remained an unclear, evasive and almost phantom-like group. This article examines how British colonial medical men wrote about a group who probably never existed in Burma outside of the colonial imagination. By locating the vaccinator’s enemy in a social practice and not in a particular group of practitioners, I seek to uncover the secret of inoculation’s resilience in the face of decades of aggressive vaccination campaigns. The inoculator was the bogeyman of colonial vaccination reports, requiring the historian to ask a different set of questions about indigenous resistance to colonial medicine and to look at the colonial records in a different way.
"The Concepts of Dobama ("Our Burma") and Thudo-bama ("Their Burma") in Burmese Nationalism, 1930-1948" pp.1-16