Disarmament and Resistance in Colonial Burma: A Case Study of the Chin Hills
The paper is an in-depth analysis of the disarmament policy carried out by the British in the Chin Hills in the late nineteenth century. Situated within the larger context of British colonial policy across the world, disarmament, from colonial perspective, was not only important but a desirable and feasible goal of the so-called ‘pacification’ process. However, the harsh measures often adopted by colonial rulers to achieve its goal remain highly questionable and in most cases, they backfired. The paper argues that the British disarmament policy in the Chin Hills backfired and was strongly resisted by the Chin people not simply because they wanted to save their guns, but it they saw it as a struggle against colonial expansion into the hill tract. It further argues that though the British had successfully confiscated guns from the Chins and regulated possession of guns through licensing, secret re-armament among the Chins clearly reveals that they had not reconciled to colonial administration.
Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing’s Grand Congratulatory Laycho for the Saturday Nagani Journal Inaugural Issue
Thakin Kodaw Hmaing is arguably the most important Myanmar writer of the last century, known to young and old, both for his politics and his contributions to Burmese literature. He was the first of only two Burmese ( the second one being U Thant) to be honored, however reluctantly, by U Ne Win’s government, with a grant of land plot for a private burial shrine near the Shwedagon pagoda. This literary figure’s immense national prestige encourages the Journal of Burma Studies to introduce one of his most famous poems to its readers, a novel development in the after life of the hugely influential Thakin who is utterly unknown beyond his country’s borders.
“Robert 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.
Buddhist Murals Illustrating Unusual Features in Temple 36 at Sale and Their Cultural Implications
This article describes Buddhist murals illustrating some unusual features and surviving in the small brick temple number 36 at Sale, one of the major satellite towns during the Pagan period. The town is located on the east bank of the Irrawady River thirty miles downstream from Old Pagan. The temple and its principal Buddha image can be stylistically dated to the thirteenth century. A dated inscription, a later intrusion on the murals, provides solid proof that the murals predate AD 1582. Likely postdating the temple, the murals show mixed features, some indigenous but others perhaps introduced from Sri Lank and north\central Thailand into the area during the mid-fourteenth century, the proposed date of the murals. These features had never been combined in such a fashion before and the resulting combination perhaps lasted only shortly in the mural tradition of central Burma. This is evidenced when the content of Sale 36 is compared with Pagan-era murals and others surviving from the fifteenth century. The intrusive status, in the mural tradition of central Burma, of the Sale 36 materials is explained in a context of trans-regional movements of the Mahavihara monastic lineage, originated in Sri Lanka, widely active in lower Burma and parts of Thailand during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Sale 36 murals might reflect the presence of this Sinhalese order in central Burma as well during the mid fourteenth century. These rare murals, a later addition in an already existing small temple, might correlate with a temporary role played by the Sinhalese order in central Burma during a limited period. It probably ultimately yielded to a more popular and more powerful Aran sect of the area.
"The Coming of the “Future 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 “future kings,” 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.
"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 Buddha’s 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
Yangon’s New Stock Exchange in Comparative Analysis
In the political sphere, the citizens of Myanmar have witnessed and taken part in an expanding and deepening process of democratization and political liberalization in the past few years. In the economic sphere, changes are also underway that indicate a growth of economic liberalism. One part of that process is a slowly increasing financialization as indicated by the new Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) set to begin trading operations in late 2015. This paper will analyze what this new stock exchange means for the citizens of Myanmar by placing it within a regional comparative analysis of stock markets across Southeast Asia, including the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange (HoSE), the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX), the Lao Securities Exchange (LSX), and the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX). The main argument is that despite calculable risks in terms of business transparency and national politics, the potentialities for a successful YSX are in place. The main socioeconomic conditions that warrant investment, both from the domestic as well as international perspective are 1) the depth and diversity of Myanmar’s adult population size, 2) Myanmar’s rallying industrial sector, 3) Burmese businesses’ current lack of bank financing, and 4) Burmese citizens’ little-to-no holdings in financial assets as compared to other non-financial wealth holdings. The YSX will not be an overnight success for either domestic Burmese investors or for domestic Burmese enterprises seeking new avenues to finance growth and project investment. However, the systemic socioeconomic conditions are in place for the Yangon Stock Exchange to parallel more closely the experience of the Vietnamese HoSE and HNX than that of the other Indochinese exchanges of LSX and CSX.
Rethinking Land and Property in a “Transitioning” Myanmar: Representations of Isolation, Neglect, and Natural Decline
In this article, we assess ideas of “progress” in the evolution of Burma/Myanmar studies, asking whether shifting conditions might offer openings to reconsider narratives about the country. We question two recurring tropes consistent across the work of journalists, policy analysts and scholars: an alleged history of undifferentiated “isolation,” and the ensuing state of Burma/Myanmar following a seemingly “natural” decline. Such language reflects assumptions that otherwise go unspoken in accounts of Myanmar’s current transition.
We consider descriptions of Yangon’s colonial architecture, asking what depictions of the city as having languished following the colonial era might tell us about assumptions in Burma/Myanmar studies. Such depictions are emblematic of a common trope in the literature, whereby historical narratives of isolation replace more dynamic accounts of interaction, particularly in regard to land and property. Drawing on work in Yangon and Shan State, we question common descriptive impulses related to the difficulty of accounting for history— including dependency on a conventional timeline broken into unquestioned periods, and recurring references to “isolation,” “nationalization” or “customary tenure” as glosses for the relations present in such periods. We ask how those analyzing Myanmar might progress beyond such impulses, cognizant that increased access to the country offers opportunities to trouble simplistic narratives, highlighting their political and intellectual perils.
Memorial Art as an Anthropological Object (Chin State of Burma)
The Indo-Chinese frontiers, including both the mainland and insular parts of Southeast Asia, were once described by Heine-Geldern and Furer-Haimendorf as “ megalithic culture.” This article will explore through an anthropological lens, the tradition of engraved steles in Burma’s Chin State. Given the stones’ relatively recent erection ( ranging from the mid- nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century) and the interconnected role themes such as ancestrality, mobility and territory played during their creation, the analysis will focus on the idea of those steles as belonging within the wider concept of a memorial space. The Chin standing stones highlight due to the plurality of their appearances and their various roles, the exceptional diversity – linguistic, cultural, religious and political – that characterizes the social landscape of Chin State. Whether or not the patterns of those engraved scenes are accompanied or not by written texts, they make for remarkable archives for historians as they are often the only tangible sources, or in situ archival documents, for society where an oral tradition still prevails. Art historians will try to assess the style and overall composition of the stones before attempting to decipher their artists. Moreover, anthropologists will more likely want to examine the relationship between the stones and the territory – in the context of clan segmentation and internationalizing migration dynamics.
The extreme social and linguistic diversity of Chin State, emphasized throughout the literature, has begun to overlap with an increasingly extended mobility. As seen within village and clan segmentations, urban migrations, Christian networks, economic expatriation; even where mobility becomes structural to chin subgroups, memorial art appears to be a major vector of social ties in ways that are both perennial and inconstant. Despite the colonial and dictatorial violence that plunged Burma into civil war, social – and, therefore, memorial – change is expressed less in terms of rupture than of metamorphosis. At the same time as new leaders emerge and clan membership disappears behind denominational affiliations, ancestry has tended to turn more and more into a memory exercise taken over by Christianity.