8th International Burma Studies Conference
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3
ART HISTORY: PAINTING AND ARTIFACTS
"NAGAS, ALCHEMISTS, MAGIC AND HELL IN SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURY BURMESE WALL PAINTINGS"
Seventeenth- and eighteenth- century Burmese murals are conservative in their subject matter. The twenty-eight previous Buddha's, the life of Gotama Buddha, including the Seven Stations, the Eight Victories, and the waso seasons, the Jataka stories, lotus pools, and floral and geometric decorations comprise the main imagery painted onto temple and cave walls and ceiling. Occasionally, in doorways, window niches, and on the ceilings, however, other elements were also incorporated into the program; these include images of nagas, the thuyaung or 'fake person' tree associated with the practice of alchemy, hell scenes not associated with the Nemi Jataka, and both magic squares and circles. In this paper, I will describe this material, which is fairly standardized, explore where it is located and the format in which it is presented to the viewer, and assess its meanings. Of particular interest is the reason why such imagery has been included with canonical material, for which there are a number of explanations, including the embeddedness of these concepts in Burmese religious beliefs and the necessity of protection.
"NINETEENTH CENTURY BUDDHIST CLOTH PAINTING FROM BURMA"
Apart from several rare exceptions, such as the scroll painting dating from the twelfth/ thirteenth century discovered in Pagan in 1984 and now on permanent display at the Pagan Museum, very little is known about Burmese Buddhist painting on cloth. Their history and their specific usage have received little attention, yet the existence of this art form has been recorded at least since the sixteenth century in the Royal Orders of Burma. Buddhist cloth paintings could be seen represented in murals temple or on palm-leaf and on parabaik, shown as a partition/divider or as a banner, and they appear to have formerly played a role in Buddhist merit-making, where such donations were displayed either at the entrance to, or within the interior of a temple compound. Or they may have been alternatively produced for some other public function, or even to provide personal protection.
In recent years the NIU Burma Art Collection had received two separate donations of Buddhist cloth paintings, usually on cotton coated with a thin whitish priming. We now possess four remarkable examples of such paintings dating to the nineteenth century.
The subjects vary from a distinctive cosmological representation superimposed on a superb shedawya, or "footprint of the Buddha", to depictions of his celebrated disciples Shin Thiwali and Shin Upago, and to certain events in the life of Buddha.
The objective of this paper is to present the artistic and iconographic affiliations of Burmese Buddhist cloth paintings, contextualized both historically and geographically, vis-a-vis the neighboring Buddhist countries, towards better understanding their larger social and religious significance.
"THE PONGYIBYAN: FUNERAL CEREMONIES OF SENIOR MONKS IN 19TH CENTURY BURMA AND ASSOCIATED ARTIFACTS"
This paper describes the Burmese festival of pongyibyan, the ceremonies at the cremation of a senior monk, mainly by collating written accounts and photographs by Europeans who witnessed pongyibyan in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Possible canonical precedents for certain rites of the pongyibyan may be found in accounts in the Parinibbanna Sutta of the Buddha's own funeral. The paper cites descriptions of the evisceration, embalming and gilding of the monk's corpse; the simple inner coffin, and elaborate outer coffin; the mortuary chapel (neiban-kyaung) where the body lay in state awaiting cremation; the architecture and symbolic significance of the tall funeral pyres with figures of mythical beings; and the role of the sat-hsaya, the craftsman in bamboo and cut paper, who built them. The lonswethi, the tug-of-war for merit, is described. Numerous foreign observers reported the Burmese passion for rocketry. At least three types of rockets (don) were used at pongyibyan for kindling the funeral pyre. Rockets commonly caused injury or death to spectators, and were discouraged by the British colonial government.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3
CAPITOL ROOM SOUTH
"THE SLIDE GUITAR IN POST-COLONIAL BURMA: LOCAL ADAPTATIONS TO A GLOBAL INSTRUMENT"
Since the 1920s, the slide guitar has been a prominent fixture in Burma's music culture. Introduced in the early part of the century, it was quickly adapted to accommodate Burmese thachin gyi (classical), colonial period khit haung (popular oldies), and kalabaw (modern traditional) music (1930-1960). Owing to its ability to mimic Burmese vocal melodies the slide guitar was used extensively to accompany popular singers and as a central instrument in movie soundtracks for nostalgic and romantic scenes. Today, the popularity of the slide guitar is waning as youth turn their attention to International folk and rock guitar styles, though several government institutions (radio, national competitions, and universities) have provided contexts that preserve this style of playing.
This presentation will describe the manner in which the Hawaiian slide guitar has been adopted into Burmese music. Observation of techniques drawn from other Burmese instruments, repertoire choice, tunings and unique approaches to harmony will show how thoroughly Burmanized the instrument has become in the hands of Burmese musicians. In contrast, the paper will also discuss the guitar's role in fostering changes to Burmese musical aesthetics as Western Tin Pan Alley and Jazz repertoire becomes popular amongst guitarists and composers in the 1940s and 50s.
"THE FORMATION OF GENRE DIVISION OF BURMESE CLASSICAL SONGS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO SONG ANTHOLOGIES IN PALM LEAF MANUSCRIPTS"
In this paper, I aim to demonstrate the basis on which certain songs were classified as Burmese classical songs or thachingyi and the manner in which these songs were categorized according to genre. Songs that are classified as thachingyi are regarded as being Burmese "classical" songs. There are over one thousand songs listed under this category, and they are categorized into approximately 20 different genres in the song anthologies publication. According to the conventional literature on thachingyi, it is evident that almost any song can be classified under a certain genre. However, these studies do not address the basis on which these song anthologies are complied and the criteria that determine the genre of a song. Song manuscripts that were written from 1788 to 1849 did not revise all the songs, albeit the revisions made to certain kind of songs or certain author's songs. Many songs that were listed in U Sa's song anthology, written in 1849, were not classified depending on their genre; however, these songs have been categorized in the 1870 manuscript, which compiled the song titles. Following this, in all manuscripts and publications pertaining to songs that were published after 1870, the songs were edited comprehensively and compiled according to their individual genres. However, some songs can be still categorized under two different genres. Therefore, the relationship between songs and their genres is not absolute; this relationship is determined when the song is edited and compiled in anthologies, and not at the time of inception.
"ADAPTABLE SONORITIES: GITA LU LIN U KO KO'S DEPARTURE IN SUNDAYA TONE AND STYLE"
Often, improvising pianist-composers will be recognized for their ingenuity in creation of material. Less observed is their identity through craft in touch and timbre. Because this art is elusive and resists discursive presentation, it gets overlooked and 'under-heard'. Yet it is precisely U Ko Ko's sandaya touch and technique which produced concomitantly a great elation and studied indifference among some of his audiences.
U Ko Ko (1928-2007) was extraordinarily articulate about and proud of his evolution of a personal piano style which combined "international fingering" with a Burmese musical sensibility. Yet many Burmese listeners - both musicians and music aficionados- while acknowledging U Ko Ko's stature and genius as a composer and pianist, would confide that he wasn't really playing Burman/Myanmar music with a "true" Burman sound. What would that authentic sound is which listeners wanted? And how would listeners with these aural expectations both be disturbed by U Ko Ko's sandaya playing yet enticed by his art?
I will play some short musical examples (cd and on keyboard) contrasting some aspects of U Ko Ko's technique with that of other pianists. In conclusion I will raise some points about what constitute listening habits as 21st Century Burmese musical culture embraces both notions of nostalgic return and a perceived foray into "the new" among different generations of musicians and audiences.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3
ART HISTORY: ICONOGRAPHY AND ARCHITECTURE
"THE ROCK-CUT TEMPLES OF SHWE BA TAUNG - CENTRAL BURMA"
ANNE MAY CHEW
The religious complex of Shwe Ba Taung, closed to the archaeological site of PWT, is located in the heart of central Burma, on the west bank of the Chindwin River. Shwe Ba Taung, studded with temples-shrines accessible from ground level through narrow stairways and alleyways, contain several colossal standing images of Lord Buddha. Its uniqueness relies in the fact that all of it is dug out from the rock by human hands.
The temples-caves of Shwe Ba Taung are dated from the colonial period (1886-1948). Among a hundred of grottoes of different sizes at the site, about 50 are considered as temples-shrines. Others are designated as monastic residences or living accommodations of the laymen. These temples-caves contained over 200 Buddha sculptures belonging to Mandalay style, are chiselled from soft volcanic stone.
According to the inscriptions found, the shrines at Shwe Ba Taung, were mostly constructed during the first quarter of the 20TH century. The majority have two or three entrances. These contemporary temples are partially built in solid stone blocks on the upper part of the shrines so as to give the façades monumental appearance. The height of the façades can rise up to 6 meters. The main feature of Shwe Ba Taung is the architectural ornamentation on the façades, imitating the traditional wooden architecture and buildings constructed during the colonial period. This paper focuses on the artistic creation of the facades: compositions, diversities and influence.
"THE POINTED ARCH AT PAGAN: WHAT SHAPE JAMBUDVIPA?"
One of the most arresting sights encountered by a visitor to the ancient city of Pagan, is the widespread architectural use of the pointed arch, or, as it is known in the west, the Gothic arch. This architectural preference becomes all the more intriguing upon a realization that Pagan is the only site in Asia where the pointed arch is extensively used for structural purposes. Although the pointed arch was known in India, it was employed for small niches, never for wide spans as was its use during the Medieval Ages in Europe. Hindu-Buddhist buildings did not require a large interior space because worship in these religions is not congregational as in the west, but processional, so that small interior spaces were adequate for worship. Therefore, devices to span large spaces were not needed. However, the use of pointed arch began during the reign of King Kyanzittha and continued throughout the remainder of the Pagan Period. This paper seeks to answer how the pointed arch became the preferred spanning device during the Pagan Period, how it expressed an ardent wish for the future Buddha, Meitreya, to return to Burma and why it was later forgotten.
Since no contemporary written records exist that address themselves to these questions, this paper will review the evidence of sculpture, wall paintings, and various aspects of the temple architecture that are relevant to these issues.
"A PYU TRANSITION AT BAGAN: ICONOGRAPHIC LINKS"
Bagan's origin as a Pyu settlement has gained general support in recent years through the integrated analysis of archaeological research and historical records. However, until the partial excavation of Temple 996 around 2002 there was only scattered physical evidence of Pyu presence at Bagan, all pre-dating Bagan's emergence as the centre of a major Southeast Asian empire in the 11th century. This material exists principally in the form of votive tablets, while the Nga-kywe-na-daung and Bu-hpaya stupas are linked to the Pyu through their design. Concurrently there has been further excavation and evaluation of the artifacts found at the major Pyu sites, with the majority of objects being found at Sriksetra. The artifacts and architectural design elements at Temple 996 have been linked to the Pyu and represent a significant increase in the amount of Pyu related material found to date at Bagan. This 'discovery' has provided a bridge which offers for the first time the opportunity to evaluate the material remains from both sites in relation to each other. This in turn is a potential starting point for determining an origin from which the distinctly Burmese aesthetic emerged. Stylistic and iconographic links between Srikshetra and Bagan are identified, and these connections are used to infer that Pyu cultural models were a significant influence in the development of Bagan period artistic expression. In addition, through the similarities in decorative elements between some of Bagan's early temples and acknowledged Pyu design it is proposed that there is evidence which supports a Pyu transitional phase at Bagan which possibly extended through to the early 12th century.
"THE MAKING OF A BUDDHA IMAGE IN ARAKAN"
The paper is about the making of Buddha's Image today, in the Arakan State of Burma. The Buddhist Kingdom of Arakan was independent until 1785, the date of the Burmese conquest. Although their kingdom did not exist for more than two centuries, today the Arakanese still refer to it and its palladium, the protective Mahamuni Buddha Image, maintaining a strong sense of historical and religious community amongst Arakanese. During fieldwork conducted mostly in Arakan State, starting in the late nineties, I came to note the vitality of Buddhist statuary. Looking at this along with many oral and written narratives on the images of Buddha in Arakan, I wondered why these images of Buddha are so important.
Today in Arakan, in producing new Buddha images connected to the Mahamuni one, as well as through devotions, rituals and donations, this society perpetuates, what I have called its "mythical space" but also its particular social and religious space.
The paper is based on ethnographical data, which cover the whole process of making the Buddha's Image, step by step, from the original drawing of the future Image to its ritual consecration. Most of the studies on ceremonies associated with Buddha's images in Theravada societies are concerned with the consecration ritual and fewer on venerating the Buddha Images or remains. However in one case, they were several ceremonies and rituals while making the image, before its consecration. Theses data constitute new ones as there were few if any before. They concern both the study of material religion, Buddhist rituals and the general knowledge of the Arakanese society.
It appears that most of Buddha images are believed to contain power, not only through consecration ritual but also, as the analysis reveals, in the process itself.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3
NINETEENTH CENTURY HISTORY AND CULTURE
CAPITOL ROOM SOUTH
"BURMA STUDIES ON TOUR: BAPTIST PORTRAYALS OF BURMA IN 1830S AMERICA"
In 1833, the American Baptist missionaries Jonathan and Deborah Wade returned from Burma to the United States with two assistants, Ko Chet-thing, and Maung Shwe Maung. They toured the country speaking at churches and conventions raising money for missionary schools, they spent several months in residence at the Hamilton Theological Institute in New York. While in Hamilton, Maung Shwe Maung and Ko Chet-thing led classes in Burmese and Karen language for students preparing to go to Burma as missionaries. As well as occasioning the first Burmese language classes in the Western Hemisphere, the Wades' tour undoubtedly portrayed Burma and its culture in a new light to those who attended their fundraising talks. This paper will attempt to discern the impact of the 1833-34 tour on American Baptist discourse about Burma as reflected in the periodical press.
"BUILDING THE 'CITY OF DHAMMA': KING MINDON'S FOUNDATION OF MANDALAY IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY"
This paper examines the nature of King Mindon's extensive building program for Mandalay at the time of its founding against the backdrop of preceding Konbaung royal capitals (Shwebo, Ava and Amarapura). The purpose of this study is to highlight the strong correlation between textual tradition, contemporaneous royal records and actual building practice in Mindon's undertaking. It is also to apprehend the 'historical thickness' of a 'Theravadin landscape', a dimension that too often goes unnoticed in traditional Burmese historiography. In doing so, we hope to contribute to the larger question of Buddhist kingship in Burma and its final evolution during the Konbaung dynasty under the influence of great external challenges.
The argument here proposed is that the founding of Mandalay is not so much equated with the building of the royal palace and its 'shwe myodaw' as was the case in the preceding Konbaung capitals than with the building of an outer city, 'hsin kye hpoun', and its extensive building program of Buddhist relics and structures.
To support this view, this paper will examine how King Mindon's building program was designed to: (1) make the 'presence' of the Buddha ubiquitous and conspicuous throughout the city; (2) provide the population with a network of infrastructures aimed at improving their welfare and facilitating their engagement with religion; (3) and establish the new royal capital as one of the main centers for scholarship in the Buddhist world.
This study draws on field and archival data gathered in Mandalay and Yangon since October 2007.
"A NEW THEORY ON THE EVOLUTION OF BURMESE PUPPETRY"
TIN MAUNG KYI
Traditionally, U Sa, a multi-talented man and minister at the court of Bagyidaw during the Konbaung dynasty, is credited with the invention of puppets in 1837 when he became a vanquish in a court intrigue and went into solitary confinement where he entertained himself with puppets. Such a full scale invention is more a probability than a possibility, as proved by Lieutenant Pemberton's travel account written a decade earlier when, sent from Manipur to Ava to discuss a border dispute with Burmese authorities, he noted a puppet and was very much fascinated by its performance. Prior to this, there are evidences in Burmese literature as early as the 15th century. Historical development in itself cannot achieve abruptly to a full scale as indicated by a long time span. To consider its evolution to a broader sense of judgment we have to include: 1) the puppet's anatomical structure and material, 2) its size, and 3) methods of manipulation.
The presentation will first present the historical context in which art of puppetry develop in Burma and secondly address the different questions of its technical development. So far no extensive research has been done on these different aspects and cultural specialists studying performing arts are left with the impression that puppetry was borne out from a single man's invention when clearly the process involves a very long time. All these aspects are also believed to take a rather long time to achieve the present state in which art of puppetry is.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
MIGRATION WITHIN AND OUT OF BURMA: HOW TO COPE AND TO WHAT EFFECT?
"REFUGEES AS TRANSNATIONAL ACTORS: THE IMPACT OF BURMESE DIASPORA ENGAGEMENT"
In contrast to the popular depiction of refugees as 'vulnerable victims', their creative agency needs to be stressed. Refugees are continuously developing new strategies to cope with their displacement, some of which are transnational in nature. In this paper, the economic, social, cultural and political transnational activities of Burmese refugees in Thailand are expounded. The second and main part of the paper analyses the cumulative impact of these activities on several stakeholders: the families and community back home and in exile, the Burmese junta, the Thai government and the international community. This analysis aims to contribute to a wider understanding of the involvement of refugees in transnational activities and the subsequent effect on conflict as well as development.
"RECENT RESETTLEMENT OF PEOPLE FROM BURMA AND THE (RE) EMERGENCE OF THE 'BURMESE' COMMUNITY IN AUSTRALIA"
People from Burma have migrated to Australia over two reasonably distinct periods - from the late 1940s to the mid 1970s, and the early 1990s to the present. Those that arrived in Australia more recently have been sourced from a number of different ethnic groups, including the Burman, Karen, Mon and Chin. This paper will utilize oral history testimony and additional archival research to canvass the resettlement experiences of these groups, many of whom came to Australia through its refugee and special humanitarian visa programs. In doing so it will explore shifts in Australian migration and resettlement policies, including the recently announced refocusing of its humanitarian resettlement program from Africa to Asia, which will ensure that the number of people from Burma resettling in Australia in the near future will steadily, if not dramatically, increase.
Despite the long established nature of the "Burmese" community in Australia it is not until very recently that this community has received significant attention from academics, service provider groups and Australian governments. The paper will offer an examination of the emergence of the "Burmese" community as a focus for the work of such groups, and more broadly in the consciousness of the wider Australian community. It will conclude with a discussion of the impact of the anti-regime protests of 2007 in Burma on this growing awareness.
The research presented in this paper forms part of a larger PhD study on the migration of people from Burma to Australia. The project aims to produce a transnational history that explores the ways in which both Australia and Burma have participated in larger international exchanges, highlighting how the histories of both nations intersect and can be fruitfully combined.
"THE 'EVERYDAY POLITICS' OF IDP PROTECTION IN KAREN STATE"
While international humanitarian access in Burma has opened up over the past decade and a half, the ongoing debate regarding the appropriate relationship between politics and humanitarian assistance remains unresolved. This debate has become especially limiting in regards to protection measures for internally displaced persons (IDPs) which are increasingly seen to fall within the mandate of humanitarian agencies. Conventional IDP protection frameworks are biased towards a top-down model of politically-averse intervention which marginalizes local initiatives to resist abuse and hinders local control over protection efforts. Yet such local resistance strategies remain the most effective IDP protection measures currently employed in Karen State and other parts of rural Burma. Addressing the protection needs and underlying humanitarian concerns of displaced and potentially displaced people is thus inseparable from engagement with the 'everyday politics' of rural villagers. The present article seeks to challenge conventional notions of IDP protection that prioritize a form of State-centric 'neutrality' and marginalize the 'everyday politics' through which local villagers continue to resist abuse and claim their rights.
"CYBER SPACE: THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN MOBILIZING DISPLACED KAREN IN THE THAILAND-BURMA BORDERLANDS"
In today's world mobilizing people for action has taken on new spatial forms as we come to terms with the idea of a cyber space. We find ourselves living in a paradox: the shrinking of space requires an expansion in consciousness related to ideas, knowledge and accessibility to the greater world. The result of this nexus is the capacity to mobilize large or small groups of people across vast geographical distances. Building on Stanley Brunn's work on 'virtual communities' this paper will look at how the Karen, an ethnic group from Burma, have utilized new technology and communications infrastructure to support their claims of ethnic persecution and injustice, and to mobilize a dispersed Karen population. Since the nineties the Thailand-Burma borderlands has been defined by the influx of this new technology. Blogs, chat forums, cyber groups, video, digital, and sound recordings are increasingly common mediums in which the Karen document and disseminate information - largely political and cultural in nature. Communications technology has also allowed the Karen to tap into international networks that have the potential to change not only the way in which the Karen conflict will be viewed but also how possible solutions to the problem might be found. While this paper will focus on the solidarity aspects enabled by this new technology in the borderlands, it will also offer some observations on how this might change the nature of the Karen resistance movement.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
QUESTIONS OF HISTORY AND HISTORIOGRAPHY
CAPITOL ROOM NORTH
"THE RAJAWANGSA KATHA: WRITING AND TELLING MON NARRATIVE HISTORIES"
This paper is a preliminary discussion of a close reading of a collection of Mon-language historical texts, known as the Rajawangsa Katha in Mon and the "Pak Lat Chronicles" in English, that raise a number of questions and open possibilities for writing new kinds of histories of Mon speakers, Lower Burma, and the interactions between Burmese-, Mon- and T(h)ai speakers.
Thought to originate from the Mon communities of 19th-century Siam, Mon tradition holds that these texts are the earliest known records of Mon history written in Mon. The largest component text is the story of Rajadhiraj, known in Mon, Thai, and Burmese-language versions. Although the Rajawangsa Katha is written in Mon, the language reveals extensive interaction with the Burmese and Thai languages, and in fact a large tract appears to have been translated directly from Thai.
Not only have these texts survived until the present, but Rajadhiraj is a central historical narrative in no less than three vernacular traditions of Mainland Southeast Asia. Why are this narrative and its contents so compelling? While the Burmese and Thai versions are highly regarded for their literary merit, the Mon version challenges the modern Mon reader with difficult language and syntax, and the events depicted do not always agree with the other versions.
Leaving aside the question of the ultimate origins of these texts, I discuss what this particular telling in this collection of historical narratives might reveal to us, including transmission of the texts over time and through speakers of different languages in different places. They suggest alternate chronologies and depictions of events considered seminal in the Mon and Burmese historiographical traditions.
"COLLASOPHE, HISTORICITY AND THE DECLINE OF PAGAN: CYCLICAL HISTORY AND HISTORICISM VERSES GENERATIVITY IN THE HISTORIOGRAPHY OF PRE-MODERN MYANMAR"
The writing of this essay was stimulated by an observation made by Michael A. Aung-Thwin in Myth and History in the Historiography of Early Burma: Paradigms, Primary Sources, and Prejudices (1998). A statement that simply put, in contrast to earlier historiographical paradigms, suggests that there was more continuity than discontinuity between the Pagan and Ava dynasties. Mythbusting has political implications and uses that Aung-Thwin addresses in his book, but not in a way that has satisfied his subsequent critics. Revision is an important tool for the historian because it allows for new evidence and methods to be applied to history writing, allowing for a more intelligible and meaningful understanding of the past. However, as Karl Popper noted, "all description is necessarily selective." Historicity or historical fact really has little basis beyond the consensus of scholars. If politics is taken to refer to the process of decision making, then historiography is inherently political. This infers that history writing is susceptible to politicization.
In Myanmar studies (here implying Burma studies rather than Burmese studies) the works of Michael A. Aung-Thwin, including The Mists of Ramañña (2005) and more pertinent to this essay, Myth and History in the Historiography of Early Burma, have created a crisis in consensus because Aung-Thwin's conclusions are far enough removed from the preexisting literature to threaten a revolution in Myanmar historiography. A large part of Aung-Thwin's critique revolves around the dialectic or rise and fall basis of previous history writing (cyclical history), and the perception that earlier historians fit the evidence to the paradigm rather than letting the evidence inform the paradigm. On the other hand, a large part of the criticism directed at Aung-Thwin implies he relies on historism or historicism (tradition) as the basis for his own paradigm-a paradigm which seems to privilege his "dry zone paramountcy" and its majority ethnically Myanmar population over peripheral areas (in particular littoral and highland areas) and other ethnic contributors (e.g. Mon, Rakhaing and Shan) in the continuum of Myanmar culture and history.
Generativity is the idea that forces unrelated to and independent of the origins of a system (in this case a cultural system or culture) can nonetheless change the system from the inside, adding onto and creating new aspects that are a cohesive and integral part of that system as a whole. This suggests that new or adapted practices and symbols are not merely a veneer or an imperialism of some sort, but part and parcel of historical change. This concept suggests continuity and adaptation as a historiographical paradigm. In regards to Myanmar history between the final end of the Pagan Dynasty sometime around 1364 AD and the end of the Ava Dynasty in 1531 AD, I suggest there was a minor collapsophe or loss of knowledge, and then a subsequent reinscription of ritual knowledge as a means to continuity and legitimacy. By looking at changes in regnal titles as opposed to practices found in donative inscriptions over the course of the period, it is evident that Hindu-Buddhistic Indian titles were replaced by more Buddhistic Indian titles in the transition, while at the same time a continuous ritual basis was maintained. This suggests that those who wielded the specialist knowledge associated with the Pagan court, most likely Brahmin imported from India, either did not make the transition to the Ava court (suggesting a new group of Brahmin) or the ritual needs of the Ava court required a slightly different set of specialized knowledge for some reason. Though this question is left unanswered, the result of a shifted epistemological and methodological understanding of the processes of history writing in this case is an emphasis on continuity and adaptation, in which the past influences historical change, but does not necessitate or determine it. This shifted historiographical paradigm can help clear up some of the political disagreements that can form during the process of history writing, allowing for the integration of new knowledge into the historiography, while also allowing for an emphasis on people as the agents of historical change rather than structures, while allowing for more soundly based claims of historicity at the same time.
"LETWE NAWRAHTA (1723-1791): RECORDER OF MYANMAR HISTORY READ BY DR. TOE HLA"
U THAW KAUNG
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
CAPITOL ROOM SOUTH
"BLASTING THE PAST: OR WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE SILVER SCREEN PROMOTES BURMAN-CENTRIC HISTORY AMONGST ETHNICALLY DIVERSE VIEWERS"
In her detailed ethnography of television viewing practices in India, the anthropologist Purnima Mankekar argues that the semiotic skills of viewers are shaped by their positions along multiple axes of power. In post-independence Burma, we can see a growth and expansion of the culture industries, and particularly following Ne Win's coup of 1962, a consolidation of media production and content at the behest of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party. How these shifts in the culture industries of Burma were meted out by their consumers demands closer examination. The film Shwezayan released in 1963, ostensibly about the history of the 11th century Shan princess, Sao Mon La, who was given to the Bagan King Anawrahta, incited some Shan viewers to protest. Although, arguably, most representations of King Anawrahta at this time could be considered examples of Burman-centric, revisionist history, it was the (mis)representation of the Shan princess which struck a chord amongst some Shan viewers. In examining Shan language sources on the history of Sao Mon La, I have found there are key differences in the framing of the Mao King Sao Hom Mong's motivations for giving his daughter to Anawrahta's court, the notions of civilization, and the role of this Shan princess once she arrived in Bagan. Exploring these differences in Shan and Burmese-language history texts, and looking at the particularities of the film, Shwezayan this paper will flesh out this example as a "hot button" issue in comparative historiography and popular culture representations of history which continue to have relevance to ethnic relations in Burma today.
"WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SHAN? SHIFTING ETHNIC MARKERS FOR SHAN IN NORTHERN THAILAND"
The recent influx of Shan migrants from Burma into northern Thailand has prompted a fresh reappraisal of what it means to be "Shan" by those with a claim to that identity on the Thai side of the border. In this paper, I will explore some of the ways Shan ethnic identity is being cultivated, displayed, and marketed by various groups in Mae Hong Son province and in the city of Chiang Mai. I am especially interested in drawing attention to the increasingly complicated connections that exist between different "kinds" of Shans in this region and how these connections contribute to emerging views of Shan identity.
"THE CHAIN OF CHIANG AND VIANG: QUESTIONS FOR LINGUISTICS AND ARCHAEOLOGY"
According to the U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies 1994 Laos webpage, (http://hdl.loc.gov.gdc/cntrystd.la), the origin of the toponym chiang (Chiang Rung) and cognates, such as keng (Kengtung) and xiang (Xiangkhuang) derives from the Nan-chao administrative practice of organizing its ten prefectures into kien-a Sino-Tibetan, not a Tai term. The purpose of this presentation is largely to investigate the linguistic and environmental geography of the term, which extends in chain-like fashion from Jing Hong, Yunnan; Kengtung, Burma; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Xieng Khuang, Laos and into Vietnam. The Tai Dam area of northwest Vietnam has many places named chiang. Hoang Luong (2004) has brought to light the obscured history of Tai places named chiang in Vietnam. He points out that even Hanoi was once called Chiang Lo3i. Even more tantalizing are the ruins of a 6500 year old village, Chiang-chao of the Yang-shao culture in North China. Maps reveal a regional pattern of historically important chiang located along the Mekong river and tributaries in one unified zone, and near the Red and Black rivers in northwest Vietnam in another concentration. Allied with chiang is the toponym viang, but much less prominently. Anthropologists such as Condominas and O'Connor have paid a great deal of attention to the significance of mu_ang in their theory of "emboxment" of mandalas but have largely overlooked the place of chiang in a moving chain of trade and marriage alliances among the elites of these emergent urban centers. Borrowing of the terms chiang and viang is at play; mu_ang is a native/proto Tai term which simply meant "basin" before it acquired political reference. A cursory look at older sketches of the remnants of walls in some of these chiang reveal a circular/oval pattern with as many as twelve gates in the case of Kengtung. The question raised in this paper is what triggered the chain of these linguistic and archaeological events-the Mongol invasion? A corollary question is what curtailed further dispersion of the linguistic and archaeological form?
"A BOOK FOR THE DEAD: A SHAN BUDDHIST TRADITION BEING A MEANS FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THEIR CULTURAL IDENTITY"
In Shan Buddhist communities when a member of a family dies, the remaining members of the family do some good deeds and then transfer the merit of their good deeds to their departed relative. They believe their departed relative will receive the merit and as a result he/she will be reborn or have a better life in a future rebirth. One of the common methods of merit-making for the departed one is that a formal ceremony comprising many kinds of ritual performances such as giving feast the whole village, making offerings to monks and listening sermons. The ceremony is usually starts at the house of the family of the dead first and then ends at the village temple. One of the most important things to do in the ceremony is to donate a Buddhist text. The text is usually composed in Shan poetry in the form of manuscript. The poetic text is performed at the ceremony in which is attended by older people. In Thailand, there is a tradition of producing text called "cremation volume" published in remembrance of a dead person. There is also a Pali saying: The gift of the dhamma excels all other gifts. In this paper, I shall examine the Shan tradition of producing Buddhist texts and compare it with that of the Thai and other similar Buddhist traditions. The centre point of this paper is an analysis of the Shan tradition of presenting Buddhist text as a way of preserving Shan Buddhist identity.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
POLITICAL SCIENCE: NATIONAL, STATE AND ECONOMY
"BURMA'S ECONOMY 2008: DECLINE, DISASTER….AND WAYS FORWARD"
'Economic development' is not a process that is currently taking place in Burma. Indeed, and notwithstanding the windfall gains from natural gas exports that are currently accruing, present day Burma is perhaps best described as an 'un-developing' country, as the modest gains made in the early 1990s are steadily wound back. In 2008, and in the immediate period ahead, some growth in GDP will be apparent, but this will largely be the result of the gas windfalls that otherwise mask an economy that is regressing in every important respect. This paper will present the current state of Burma's economy, and explore the reforms that will be necessary if Burma is to achieve any measure of economic prosperity.
"THE WAR ON DRUGS IN MYANMAR"
The international community has evinced a desire to reduce drug production in Myanmar. There is controversy concerning the extent of production over the last twelve years. This obfuscates debate as to how best to proceed.
With the cooperation of the Burmese Government, both the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United States have conducted opium surveys over the 10 years ended in 2005 and the UNODC has continued through early 2007.
Because of even greater obstacles to accurate measurement, Myanmar, the United States and the UNODC have not attempted to survey, much less publish, any precise numbers on the annual production and distribution of amphetamine pills. The last two have offered only estimates.
Those surveys conclude that opium cultivation and production has decreased dramatically since 1996. Narcotics interdiction by the Burmese government has increased substantially in that time. The total area under poppy cultivation has diminished between 75 and 80 percent since 1996. The decrease in total yield is equally dramatic. This trend was reversed in both categories only in the 2007 growing season.
The cessation of opium cultivation in many areas of the Shan State has caused farmers' incomes to diminish precipitously. The decreasing acreage and tonnage through 2005-6 increased the per kilogram price substantially for the opium actually harvested in 2006 and 2007. This, together with the lack of adequate assistance to farmers who terminated cultivation and suffered diminished income, prompted a minority of them to re-locate and to resume poppy growing given the price incentive and lack of assistance to act otherwise.
The failure of the international community, especially the United states, to render adequate assistance to these cultivators threatens to drive more of them to resume poppy farming.
The refusal of the United States to certify Myanmar as making substantial efforts to interdict drugs continues. Were the policy reversed and American assistance calibrated to continue suppression by Myanmar and to additional aid by other countries and, to the extent appropriate, the relevant cease-fire groups, and the cultivators' dire straits would be ameliorated. Moreover, an alteration in the impasse between the American and Burmese Governments might be commenced.
"BUILDING A BRIDGE: LITERAL AND METAPHORICAL BUILDING OF NATIONAL UNITY IN BURMA"
The 'Desire for National Unity' has been at the forefront of political slogans of the Burmese government for decades. This desire is integral in justifying continued military rule and it has manifested itself in numerous programs that cater to a homogenous vision of society in an ethnically diverse and conflicted nation. The human adaptation of Burma's physical landscape, with its multitude of waterways and diverse topography, has also reflected this desire for unity through the construction of roadways, bridges and the like. To some extent, this has integrated outlying and inaccessible regions into the central economic and administrative zones. Bridge building, in particular, has played an significant role in this physical adaptation under the present government, it is part of a wider campaign to promote the image of Burma's progression towards 'a modern and developed nation', but it also can be understood as a salient metaphor for the government's ideological program of cultural and political hegemony. Within the physical and social landscape, bridge building has become manifest both in form and word. This paper will examine connections between the literal construction of bridges by the present government and bridge building as metaphor in the government's nationalist discourse and its impact on ethnic relations in Burma. It will propose that bridge construction, as a move towards a 'modern and developed nation', also reinforces the desire for national unity and a singular as opposed to multi-nationalist state.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
CAPITOL ROOM NORTH
"RECOGNITION OF IDENTITY AS CONTROL OF DIFFERENCE IN CONTEMPORARY BURMESE STATE HISTORY TEXTBOOKS"
It has long been recognized that one of the primary functions of schooling is to reproduce state ideologies (Althusser, 1971; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977), and in particular to interpolate the conceptions of citizenship and identity that benefit dominant groups (Luykx, 1999). With these insights in mind, I will examine the language and images in contemporary Burmese state history textbooks. I will argue that the metaphors, metonyms, and images used to describe identity (ethnicity, nationality, and religion) reveal underlying ideologies of inclusion, exclusion, and boundary maintenance. In order to make this argument, I will draw on Frederic Schaffer's (1998) method of "language-centered conceptual analysis" and Sara Ahmed's (2004) readings of the emotional performativity of texts in public domain. My argument will illustrate how these textbooks display what Mary Callahan (2004) calls the simultaneous homogenization and differentiation of ethnic identity in the post-Socialist era in Myanmar. Furthermore, I will suggest that these texts reveal a specific governmental strategy: recognition of difference in order to control identity formation and "manage" diversity (Markell, 2003). Finally, I will assert that history textbooks appropriate for a federal, democratic, post-dictatorship Burma would need to present multiple perspectives on identity while making room for student participation.
"NGO'S IN BURMA/MYANMAR: THE CONSTRUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE AND ETHICAL PERSONHOOD IN CAPACITY BUILDING ACTIVITIES"
Ideas of empowerment, self-reliance, and capacity building are ubiquitous in today's development, humanitarian and other aid efforts. While many aid workers show enthusiasm for these concepts, social science scholars have tended to critique them for being neoliberal forms of governmentality (Duffield 2001; Sharma 2006). In this paper I circumvent an analysis that takes such positions of idealism or cynicism. Rather, I follow anthropologists who study NGO activities such as capacity building as social practices that generate forms of collective knowledge and ethical personhood (Bornstein 2003; Feldman 2007; Fortune 2001; Redfield 2006; Riles 2000). That is, instead of assessing whether particular capacity building efforts truly enable people or in fact ensnare them in structures of domination, I ask: What kinds of knowledge do NGO workers create in capacity building activities, and how do these activities cultivate particular affective responses and bodily practices in order to form ethical forms of personhood? How might NGO workers incorporate technical NGO tools, particular cultural values, or other concepts such as trust (Lahtaw 2007) in their activities? This exploration of knowledge-making and ethical personhood in NGO capacity building activities is an initial effort towards understanding the effects of the rise of civil society groups in Burma/Myanmar (Heidel 2006), as well as the most recent active work of international and local aid organizations after cyclone Nargis.
"AT THE INTERSECTION OF EDUCATION & POLITICS: HOW TEACHERS NEGOTIATE CIVIC EDUCATION IN BURMA"
This paper explores how teachers' political and educational contexts have affected their practice of civic education between 1988 and the present. Government sanctioned civic education-related curricular content is discussed followed by an analysis of how teachers determine what civic education material to deliver to their students and how to deliver it. Based on this analysis two key questions will be considered (1) what degree of agency do teachers have to encourage or discourage their students to dissent against the government? (2) to what extent have teacher-student interactions determined students' choice to engage or not engage in political activism against the Burmese government?
This study is based on field work carried out from May to August 2008 in which the author interviewed former teachers and students from Burma. Former teachers include those who taught at government schools as well as those who taught at private tutoring centers.
"MYANMAR UNICODE: COMPARATIVE STUDY ON USING ADHOC FONTS AND STANDARDIZED ENCODING FOR MYANMAR SCRIPTS"
WUNNA KO KO
Burmese language is used by about 50 million people who live mostly in Myanmar as well as in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and United States. The font using True Type Technology has been developed more than 2 decades ago. However, the True Type Font can only be used for Desktop Publishing purposes. Due to the lack of standard encoding, different vendors used different mapping. Unicode 5.1 was published in the first week of April, 2008. It is the first ever standard encoding for Myanmar scripts, which as to be used by Burmese, Mon, Shan, Karen, and Arakanese. Some local and international developers started work with fonts based on this standard encoding. With this development the Burmese Language Project at OpenOffice.org published its' beta version of Burmese language Office Suite in timing with Unicode 5.1. Wikipedia is the major web developer who uses Unicode 5.1 compliant Burmese language web pages. Though it has only been a little more than six months since the standard encoding was published, major developers are still improving the software. There are many more things that need to be done.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
CAPITOL ROOM SOUTH
"BEING SHAN ON THE THAI SIDE OF THE BORDER: CONTINUITIES AND TRANSFORMATIONS IN SHAN CULTURE AND IDENTITY IN MAEHONGSON, THAILAND"
My focus is on Shan in Maehongson Province who are long term residents in Thailand and are Thai citizens. This separates them from more recent Shan refugees and illegal immigrants as well as those Shan who no longer live in Maehongson and have acquired other Thai regional identities. Since I began my research in 1977, many aspects of the community's social, economic, and cultural lives have changed. They've gone from being a relatively isolated community to one entangled in the larger political and cultural systems that entail being both Shan and Thai. Their political rituals have shifted in a parallel with the shifts in the larger political and economic context. While ceremonies that focus on the community as a bounded political unit continue, other ceremonies have been added that relate the community to the larger Thai nation state. Here "being Shan" is an ethnic identity that is counterbalanced with being Thai citizens. In this paper I explore the contours of being Shan and being Thai citizens the ways in which these categories and identities play out in the larger political, social, and economic contexts.
"AT THE CONFLUENCE OF ETHNIC REIFICATION AND ETHNIC NEUTRALIZATION: TWO CONTRAST CASES IN NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN SHAN STATE"
"PORT POLITIES IN THE HILLS: SHAN STATES AND TRADE IN THE CHINA-BURMA (MYANMAR) BORDER REGION"
CHIT HLAING (F.K. LEHMAN)
This paper draws on work I have done on the China-Burma border between 2001 and 2007 as well as my earlier research on Shan in Burma and northwestern Thailand. Shan traders cross national boundaries and interact with a wide range of ethnic groups. They serve as key cultural and knowledge brokers facilitating the trade in precious gems. These trading relationships help structure the political, economic, and social relations with Shan polities. As such, these polities resemble the "port polities" on the coasts. Here I support my argument by showing how Shan polities interacted with a broad range of uplanders.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
POLITICAL SCIENCE: INTRA-ASIAN FOREIGN POLICY
"IMPORTANCE OF EMERGENCE OF TAIWAN ON THE FOREIGN POLICY OF BURMA"
I would like to argue that though Burma adopted active and independent neutral foreign policy to involve in international affairs like Bandaung Conference and Non-aligned movement up to early 1960s, it had to accommodate isolationist policy to defend intrusion from PRC and to avoid a proxy war between US and PRC in 1960s to 1970s. This introverted xenophobic nature of generals was related to Burmese response to cold war politics i.e., PRC had to resist KMT remnants in Burma supported by CIA through Thailand. Thus Burmese social democratic government who had been already chaotic in multi-insurgency born with independence became more nervous to handle this crisis. Though they expected to get diplomatic intervention from UN and USA, the main supporter of Taiwan, they only had to fight back KMT till 1960s by strengthening Burma army. The most fearsome foreign threat for Burma was PRC invasion to follow KMT. Thus their foreign policy became more attentive and stuck to the strict non-aligned policy. In 1962, the army took control the power to suppress ethnic attempted federal issue as they were suspected to be close to SEATO. Then they imposed isolationist policy and not active in non-aligned movement and refused to join ASEAN as its members still held west military bases. Its impacts are still influential on current junta in dealing with international community to show suspicion and aggressiveness to protect national unity and sovereignty integrity from foreign influence. It is a great obstacle in Burmese road to democracy and national reconciliation.
"DILEMMAS OF THAILANDS' FOREIGN POLICY TOWARD MYANMAR FROM 2001 TO 2004: A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS"
Border skirmishes in 2001 and 2002 marked the worst relationship between Thailand and Myanmar. In order to alleviate the relationship, Thaksin Shinawatra's government provided a series of economic agreements to Myanmar. The Thai government named this strong economic-oriented foreign policy, "Forward Engagement." Apparently, the relationship between Thailand and Myanmar has improved after both governments had signed 'Pagun Declaration' in 2003. Conflicts and confrontations between the two neighbors were eased. Even though Thailand has gained a greater amount of economic benefits, this paper argues that Thailand has to pay a normative cost of democratic value in exchange of a better relationship with Myanmar. At that time, Thailand was accused of neglecting the democratic principle on which Thailand has always relied. This situation presents a dilemma of Thai foreign policy. This paper will apply the cost-benefit analysis technique to explain this nature of foreign policy by using Thaksin Shinawatra's government as a case study. This paper concludes that border proximity and different regime types between Thailand and Myanmar cause such a policy dilemma which none of Thai governments could be indifferent.
"INDIA'S BURMA POLICY IN QUESTION - ACHIEVEMENTS AND SETBACKS OF THE NEW INDO-BURMESE PARTNERSHIP"
Since 1993, India has opted for a smooth diplomatic engagement of the Burmese military regime, dropping its initial open support to the civil democratic opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi. At the dawn of the 21st century, India was facing new strategic stakes at its Eastern borders. Not only China's obvious thrust into Burma, which was kicked off by the 1988 changing of guards in Rangoon, but also the rise of insurgency along the Indo-Burmese borders and the willingness of Indian liberal thinkers to catch up the booming economies of Southeast Asia, made India rethink its approach of a neighbouring Burma. The proposed paper intends to discuss the achievements of fifteen years of an Indian constructive engagement of the Burmese military regime and the setting up of a new Indo-Burmese relationship. Has this new Burma policy paid off in the strategic, commercial and political fields?
Based upon many fieldworks in and around Burma, this paper will thus postulate that while China seems well entrenched in Burma's strategic and economic space, India still faces many obstacles in its tentative thrust eastward and struggles to get there a credible toehold. Though limited successes have been obvious with a rising bilateral trade and mutual understanding in military cooperation, strong geopolitical obstacles, political mistrust and historical legacies impede the swift establishment of a close and valuable partnership between Burma and India, the latter appearing much less influential in a yet neighbouring country than China or even Thailand.
WEAKNESS IN THE TRADITIONAL AREA STUDIES APPROACH AND BURMA.
KYI MAY KAUNG
Burma Studies has been traditionally organized as a subject discipline as Area Studies. In this approach what happens within the national boundaries of a country (only) is implicitly treated as relevant to the study of the problems of that country. At least two decades to four decades of Burma Studies has shown that these parameters are too limited. It has resulted in scholars not talking or collaborating with each other as much as they should, and not paying enough attention to systemic and regional matters, not to mention the international setting in which Burma needs to operate and Burma studies needs to operate.
For instance academic articles and journalistic ones are event driven and have time only to speak about the most micro-economic of matters, whereas it is macro economics that we need to understand. The historians, some of whom hark back to an ultra-nationalistic model, have also failed us, as they are unable to handle the problems of the moment and apparently see nothing wrong with the SPDC's paradigm. Most of the Burma scholarship is focused on subject matter which is limited to Burma only without enough cross-system, cross-national, intra and inter-regional and international analysis. That this approach has failed is widely evident from how the junta has taken advantage of the misguided approach of Friends of Burma and the international community to "depoliticize" Burma strategy during Cyclone Nargis. As a result the aid has disappeared into the junta's pockets, Ban ki-Moon's visit did not succeed, nor did that of Mr. Gambari during the Saffron Revolution last year, nor have any of the UN Rapporteurs since 1988. At the same time Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest, NLD leadership and members and other dissidents have been under arrest or under severe oppression, and the junta is continuing with "business as usual" - in fact even has windfall profits from natural gas etc.
My 1994 dissertation and my article in Asian Survey that summarized this, mentioned that we need to look at systems which were then similar to Burma's such as the then Soviet Union and the PRC and economic and hopefully political reforms there. We also need to look at China and India now and their preferred position as economically strong neighbors of Burma, and China and India; the United States and the western world and China and India as strongly emerging powers in this world as we knew it. The dissident community is now highly conscious of this, but the academic is not.
I would like to propose that the Burma academic community reach out to other approaches, including the dissident community, and the artistic and writerly ones, which are now at the forefront. This would result in much more cogent advice, and much less waste of economic and human resources in the international responses to ongoing and recurrent major crises in Burma. That the crises will continue and also continue to escalate is beyond doubt.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
SINO-BURMESE LIVES AND CULTURES
CAPITOL ROOM NORTH
"THE SOUNDSCAPES OF ETHNIC CHINESE IN RANGOON BETWEEN 1949 AND 1988"
TASAW HSIN-CHUN LU
This paper explores the soundscapes formed between 1948 and 1988 by a group of Chinese migrants in Rangoon. The concept of soundscapes allows us to undertake a flexible and inclusive approach. That is to study the cultural process through which people engage in music. Consider that music has been traveling transnationally to reach a broader range of new audience. Most places today support a wide range of disparate music that might be rooted in different cultures, but now reinterpreted in new ways. I embrace these ideas in this current study. Drawing on extensive ethnographic and archival research, I attempt to show how the soundscapes of the Chinese community in Rangoon were constructed.
By the early 1950s, a confluence of transnational forces had helped form diverse soundscapes in Rangoon's Chinatown. Sundry musical ideas, ensembles, and organizations were thriving. The primary force derives from their strong connection to the ancestral homeland. In particular, the conflicting nationalistic ideologies of the Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) China brought most music into the bipolar political arena. Yet the later anti-Chinese riots and the Burmese government's nationalization in the 1960s called a halt to such musical prosperity. Then this "dark era" of Chinese musical scene did not last too long. It is found that, in the mid-1970s, the soundscapes in the Chinese community re-constructed through the group's new cultural experiences.
"LIFE HISTORY OF TWO KOKANG CHINESE IN BURMA"
Applying the approach of individual-centered ethnography, I attempt to look into the life history of two Kokang Chinese in Burma. Kokang is located in northern Shan state adjacent to Yunnan province of China. It is primarily a Chinese inhabited area. The ancestors of many residents came here from Yunnan a few hundred years ago. The Kokangnese are recognized as an ethnic group in Burma. The two individuals treated here are father and son; the time span of their life history covers from the 1960s to the present day. Through their narrative accounts, I highlight the intricate intertwinement of the subjectivity of these two people with the historical contingent circumstances. Their life experiences reflect the social history of the Shan state as well as a broader picture of the socio-political scenario of Burma. Their personal development illustrates their dynamic agency that is characterized by expansion of social connections.
"THE CHINESE IN BURMA: TRADITIONAL MIGRATION OR STRATEGY FOR A CONQUEST"
Stretched between China and India, Burma, the only Indochina country to share a common border with the two Asian giant nations, has been preserved by its mountains, deep jungles and swampy shores from the influence of his powerful northern neighbour. For two thousand years this land had a history of its own, progressing from a loose organization of petty tribal chiefs to a series of independent indigenous emperors ruling on most of the territory of the actual Burma.
Following the British intervention and annexation (1824-1886), Burma was exposed to a steady immigration of Indian and Chinese workers needed by the colonial administration to control and develop the country. For nearly a century, newcomers poured into Burma with the British colonizers blessings. After the independence (1948) the new republican rulers pushed both Indian and Chinese communities to leave Burma, go back to their countries of origin or emigrate elsewhere. That nationalist policy, formulated to preserve "the purity of the Burmese race," was reinforced by the "Burmese Way to Socialism" headed by the military regime of General Ne Win from 1962 to 1988.
Since the advent of the new junta that policy, although not officially abandoned has been reversed. While the border relations with India were kept at a minimum level, the generals rapidly and quietly removed administrative obstacles to facilitate the establishment of the Chinese immigrants. The Yunnanese and the inhabitants of Shan State of Chinese ancestry took immediately advantage of this favourable political environment. The consequences are that, for a decade, a strong Chinese immigration is taking place in Mandalay where the first "Chinatown" of Burma seems to be in the making. The process also started in Rangoon.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
CAPITOL ROOM SOUTH
RESPONDENT: CHIT HLAING
"BUDDHISM, LAW, AND SACRED SPACE"
Focusing especially on case study materials that concern Burma and the wider South and Southeast Asian Buddhist world of which it is a part, this paper addresses how some Buddhists have understood the intersections between law and sacred space. To accomplish this task, the paper explores relationships between sacred space and law that were established by Buddhist monks and lay people alike well before the advent of Burma's colonial and post-colonial periods (periods which witnessed the destabilization of Burma's traditional legal systems). In particular, the paper examines the themes of law and sacred space as established in the Kalyani Inscriptions. Ultimately, drawing on the evidence in the Inscriptions, the paper argues a series of points about Buddhism, law, and sacred space in South and Southeast Asia. It also concludes by arguing that, in regard to Burma itself, a particular kind of emphasis on Buddhist identity, law, and sacred space has not only survived in but flourished because of certain developments (e.g. military rule) in Burma's tumultuous post-colonial history.
"CLASSIFICATION OF BUDDHIST LITERATURE IN BURMESE INSCRIPTIONS AND "HISTORIES OF PITAKA" (PITAKAT THAMAING)"
Large scale donations of manuscripts and establishment of libraries was an important form of elite merit-making in Burma at least since the eleventh century. Recopying of manuscripts which was necessary in this case and donations themselves were described in lithic inscriptions and in manuscript inventories. The ritualization of manuscript recopying sponsored by Avan overlords and their chief consorts in the Nyaungyan period (1597-1752) resulted in development of a specialized genre of Burmese literature called "histories of Pitaka" (pitakat-thamaing) defining the domain of sacred texts that the court and other pious patrons of sasana should have helped to preserve. All these documents taken together comprise a unique source of information on the history of Buddhist teaching in Burma. A comparative analysis of these documents reveals a number of significant changes in the ways pitakat literature was conceived and what texts were understood as comprising it.
The paper analyses two inscriptions listing manuscripts donated to religious establishments in the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries (Singhavira Sujjabala or Theingaweit Thotzabo Inscription of 1223 and Tetnwe-kyaung Inscription of 1442) and compares their data with several pitakat-thamaings of the sixteenth (?), seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It suggests that changes in classification of texts and the structure of manuscript inventories reflect shifts in authority assigned to certain classes of texts and individual works. It also discusses possible links between these changes and more general trends in the history of Buddhism in Burma and identifies some implications this may have for our understanding of textual Buddhism and Buddhist practice in Burma.
"HYBRID BUDDHISM IN EARLY PAGAN"
Recent scholarship has undermined various truisms about Myanmar's history, including the 'purity' of Pagan's Buddhism classified by the country's current historical memory as "Theravada."Guillon's discovery of Mulasarvastivada traces in one temple, and Gillman's linkage between a famous image and Sanskrit sources, reflect innovative contestations. The question is whether such traces instantiate the co-existence of different Buddhist paths in Pagan's history. I will argue that though such paths may well have been co-present, evidence insinuates something else. It suggests a capacious Pali defined construct harboring what are now regarded as non Pali components.
To prove this contention, I will examine the presence of beings like Rahu, featured in images of Mara's Attack and Retreat on the Night of Enlightenment. Though embedded in the Nidana-katha, Pali informed, Buddha biography, they derive from non Pali narratives. Such details have broader significance because the name of Siddhartha's son Rahula is differently interpreted by various Buddhist paths. The absence in Pagan era temples of images depicting Siddhartha's last look at his sleeping wife and child, indicates deliberate omissions of conflicting components from Pali sources in favor of information from Sanskrit ones. An extended depiction of the Buddha's visit to his son, in an early temple, opposite the image containing Rahu, sheds light on early Burmese monasticism for which Rahula is a paradigmatic monk. Such visual clues echo an inclusive late11th century Buddhist sensibility governed by a slightly differently redacted Pali Vinaya that harbored details now associated with different trans local languages and Vinayas.
"DHAMMAZEDI AND THE WRITING OF MON BUDDHIST HISTORY"
The inscriptions erected by the Mon king, Dhammazedi, in the 15th century are arguably the earliest examples of historical writing in Burma, and without a doubt they have exercised a greater influence on Mon and Burmese religion-political historiography than any other sources. Partly because of their importance, the historical veracity of Dhammazedi's inscriptions has been much debated in western scholarship, and in recent years the king's role in constructing a history for the Mon kingdom has been the subject of renewed critical scrutiny. In this paper I will examine the narrative in Dhammazedi's Kalyani Inscription erected in 1479 and compare it with what is found in several inscriptions installed by the king subsequently at pagoda restorations elsewhere in his kingdom. By applying a method of redaction criticism to these materials, I hope to suggest what of Dhammazedi's "Mon history" was adapted from existing indigenous sources, and what were his own innovations to the narrative that has come down to us today.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
ROUND TABLE: RESEARCH IN BURMA: DIFFICULTIES AND DILEMMAS
ARDETH MAUNG THAWNGHMUNG
TIN MAUNG MAUNG THAN
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
STATE INFLUENCE ON SOCIETY AND CULTURE
CAPITOL ROOM NORTH
"INFLUENCES AND NON-INFLUENCES OF ASPECTS OF WESTERN THINKING AND LAW REGARDING MADNESS AND (CRIMINAL) RESPONSIBILITY IN BURMESE SOCIAL AND LEGAL DISCOURSE"
The presentation will include
"RE-EXAMINATION OF THE RELATION BETWEEN "THE UPPER BURMA VILLAGE REGULATION (1887)" AND THE LOCAL SOCIETY"
Many historians who describe the change that took place in the society in Upper Burma under the British colonial administration have focused on the Upper Burma Village Regulation. Enacted in 1887, the purpose of this regulation was to establish a "village system." Under the village system-or in brief, the "one village, one headman system"-a new administrative unit called the "village" was instituted, and a village headman was appointed by the government. With this system, the colonial government aimed to follow the local society efficiently in terms of security and revenue collection. It appears that the village system is considered to have led to transformations in every part of Upper Burma because the position of the myothugyi, the local official in the precolonial period, was abolished. Moreover, the social ties among the local people dissolved as well. However, upon a reinvestigation of the documents pertaining to the situation before and after the enactment of the regulation, it was found that the system was forced to adapt itself to the prevailing administrative circumstances of the districts. Some district officials claimed that they faced great difficulty in applying the principle of the village system to their jurisdictions, while others stressed on the administrative usefulness of myothugyis, whose influence over the people still persisted. The additional rules eventually included in the regulation in 1890 contained provisions allowing the incumbent myothugyis to retain their positions for a certain period of time. Thus, colonial administrative policies like the village system never penetrated into the local society without some modifications in response to the circumstances of the local society, which varied among the districts.
"SOUTHEAST ASIAN SLAVERY AND SLAVE GATHERING WARFARE AS A VECTOR FOR CULTURAL TRANSMISSION: THE CASE OF BURMA AND THAILAND"
Southeast Asia has long been understood as a place where cultures hybridize and interact. Global trading networks, migration, religious pilgrimages, and labor diasporas are just a few of the globalizing forces that are critical to understanding the political, economic and cultural development of Southeast Asia as a region. Yet, I believe that this framework has contributed to another feature of Southeast Asian studies: the general sense that the region is incoherent; that it essentially contains many wildly heterogeneous culture groups that share some common cultural features due to a shared contact with foreign groups and foreign ideologies, but relatively little due to intra-regional relations.
In this paper I will argue that the region's endemic slave gathering warfare should be examined in the very same ways that we study the movement of "foreign groups" within the region and demonstrate that slave gathering warfare should be considered a significant force or vector for cultural exchange and adoption amongst populations located in Southeast Asian. To make this argument I will focus on warfare between kingdoms located in what are today the modern states of Burma and Thailand and examine two art forms that appear to have moved into Burma via Thai captives: the Ramayana dance tradition and lacquer etching.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
BUDDHISM IN EARLY 20TH AND 21ST CENTURIES
CAPITOL ROOM SOUTH
"THE RISE OF THE LAITY AND THE ORIGINS OF INSIGHT MEDITATION"
Group practice of insight meditation among lay people, though today a world-wide phenomenon began in a particular place: early twentieth-century Burma. This paper will explore what happened in colonial Burma at this time that set the stage for the mass meditation movement. Specifically, I will examine how the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw responded to perceived threats to Buddhism in Burma by forming social organizations for common lay people that played a key part in preparing them to do something that had not been done before: to take up the serious practice of insight meditation on a large-scale basis. Paying close attention, on the one hand, to the Buddhist intellectual resources and cosmological worldview upon which Ledi relied to create these organizations will allow us to consider the role of tradition in responding to change and why this led to the promotion of meditation. On the other hand, considering the colonial context in which Ledi formed these groups will allow us to assess the relationship between Ledi's actions and Western influence, particularly from the British.
This paper argues that Ledi's traditional worldview formed the basis for his understanding not only of the means to deal with challenges to Burmese Buddhism, but his understanding of what those challenges were. Challenges defined in this way, through a particular Theravada cultural modernity, allowed insight meditation to take root in Burma and, ultimately, to spread throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.
"SHOES AND SHIKHOS: BUDDHISM, RITUALS AND BOUNDARIES OF RELIGION"
British colonialism brought challenges to the categories and concepts that organized daily life in Burma, challenges that were often experienced and confronted through Buddhist discourse and practice. The interactions between Buddhism and colonial rule in Burma offer valuable purchase for investigating issues of how local movements negotiate the constraints of colonial categories and how they reinterpret these categories for local needs. This paper will investigate these issues by looking at a series of conflicts between colonial officials and Buddhist leaders in Burma over proper rituals of respect. On a number of different occasions the Burmese objected the ways in which British policy required them to demonstrate their respect and the contrasting ways in which Europeans were expected to demonstrate respect-specifically issues of wearing shoes at pagodas and public buildings and performing the prostration shikho versus a hand shake. While these conflicts have been read as nationalist struggles for autonomy, at their core they centered around differing conceptions on the nature of rituals and symbols. Buddhists came to define certain instances of these rituals as coming inside the boundaries of the category of religion, and defended one set of rules for rituals for these, while acceding and often asserting the European understanding of rituals for those area labeled outside of religion. In doing so they negotiated boundaries for the category of religion that both asserted Buddhist sovereignty over certain areas and promoted a locally inflected Buddhist vision of modernity.
"THE SAFFRON REVOLUTION AND BUDDHIST SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT IN MYANMAR"
In September 2007, the world watched "the Saffron Revolution" unfold as tens of thousands of Buddhist monks marched in defiance of military rule. My paper examines the event surrounding the Saffron Revolution by locating them within a broader struggle for political legitimacy, civil society and moral authority in Myanmar. The analysis speaks to competing visions in the politics of national building and to fragmentation within the sangha and the military regime. Further concerns address the role of socially engaged Buddhism in the context of globalizing economies and the emergence of China's consumer society. In the case of Myanmar (and Tibet), these economic trends brought Buddhist monks into violent confrontations with the military.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
ROUNDTABLE: BURMA'S CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM: FACT OR FANTASY?
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
CAPITOL ROOM NORTH
"BURMESE LANGUAGE USED IN KYAE GAUNG & SHWE LI"
PHYU PHYU WIN
This paper explores a specific situation in which use of Burmese language is currently spreading due to the growing trade between Burma and China. Shwe Li, a small town of Yunnan State in China and Muse, a small town of Northern Shan State in Burma is the two main regions for trading in Upper Burma today. Most Chinese products come into Burma through the road linking Muse and Mandalay. This road sees a lot of ethnic minorities (Shan, Burmese, Lisu, Coo-Kant, Wa etc.,) migrating for work to Muse and Shwe Li. There are two immigration check-points between Muse and Kyae Gaung where immigration staff works. Interestingly at the Chinese border most of the staff and workers can speak Burmese well.
This presentation will be divided into three parts:
"REREADING BURMESE DAYS IN THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY"
EDITH PINESS AND OLIVER POLLAK
If George Orwell had lived long enough would he like Doris Lessing, an anti-colonial fiction writer, have received the Nobel Prize for Literature? The novel Burmese Days published in 1935 was based on Orwell's life experiences as a policeman during the 1920s. Burmese Days has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages. Eighty years later this story still evokes intense interest. Most recently book length publications have included Why Orwell Matters (2002) by Christopher Hitchens, and Finding George Orwell in Burma (2004) by Emma Larkin, as well as scholarly journal literature. The presenters, Edith Piness and Oliver B. Pollak, initially read Burmese Days in the 1960s. They earned their doctorates at Claremont Graduate School and UCLA, respectively, during the 1970s with dissertations regarding British policy and Burmese response during the nineteenth century. We propose to take the opportunity of the 2008 Burma Studies Conference to reevaluate the reading of Orwell's Burmese inspired work in the light of post colonial studies, the genre of travel narratives, anthologies, and the ideology of anti-colonialism expressed in fiction authored by the oppressor.
"THE YOUNG REVOLUTIONARY AND THE SKEPTIC NATIONALIST: A PILOT STUDY TOWARDS A TYPOLOGY OF BURMESE POLITICAL THOUGHT AND THINKERS"
The paper will present some information about the writings of two keen political thinkers which were published in the late colonial period before World War II, (Thakin) Ba Hein and (Fabian U) Ba Khine. The information will be connected to some consideration on a typology of Burmese (and Myanmar) political thinking shaping the politics of the country until today.
The paper evaluates and compares the writings of both authors which were published by the Nagani Book Club and its "sister enterprise", U Tun Aye's Burma Publishing House. Both publishing houses were closely connected to the Do Bama Asiayone.
Ba Hein (1917-1946) wrote "Students' Rebellion" , "World of Capitalists" and "World War and Burma's Future" in 1939. Ba Khine (1906-1940) contributed "Political History of Myanma" in 1938, "Internal Affairs of Germany" and - together with (Thakin) Hla Pe (later: Bo Let Ya) - "War and Socialism" in 1940. Further, he contributed to a small volume on "World War and Burma" together Aung San and Ba Maw.
The authors' writings will be compared with their respective political activities as a basis for suggesting a typology of Burmese political thought and thinkers.
"DEFINING PERSONHOOD, SERVANTHOOD AND JURISDICTION: SOUTHEAST ASIAN POLITIES VS. EAST AND SOUTH ASIAN POLITIES KYUN, KHA, NGA
CHIT HLAING (F.K. LEHMAN)
Some years ago I published a paper on Freedom and Bondage and its vocabulary in Burma and nearby countries. I want, now, to elaborate and refine part of that work in the light of later work. In particular, I want to argue that words like Burmese kyun, and Shan (and Thai and Lao) kha basically refer not to servanthood, as I claimed earlier but rather to something more resembling clientship. True, they refer to a form of 'bondage', but it is specifically a matter of proper jurisdiction rather then simply subordination. I want to examine, in this regard, how such words were used (or, as in Burmese, not used) to refer to upland ethnic groups in the context of varying systems of political relations with such groups. In addition, refining a point made earlier, this will help make clear why such words tended to replace etymological first-person pronouns.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4
CAPITOL ROOM SOUTH
"DISEASE CONCEPTION AND TRADITIONAL MEDICAL PRACTICE IN ARAKAN"
Concepts of sickness and practices of protection and cure existing nowadays in Arakan are at a crossroads of different traditions, which reached this country over centuries, each contributing its own concepts and practices. These traditions are Buddhism, astrology, sprits cult, magic, and traditional medicine.
I wish to show that different concepts of sickness are mixed up in discourse and practice and that this whole makes sense because this crossroads is coherent with a conceptual context shared by many Asian cultures, which consider the cosmos in a harmonious and holistic way, i.e. as a complex of elements linked to and affecting each other. Actually, when a perturbation takes place in the system, this perturbation affects the individual and his components. The individual is a microcosm and his sickness is the symptom of a disorder which goes beyond him.
These are the four aspects on which I will focus my interest:
Firstly, every tradition considers sickness as a disorder and therapeutic practices as aiming the restoration of the order.
Secondly, practices aiming to prevent or restore order will operate on the individual and all his components, relying him to the cosmos.
Thirdly, the healers even if defined by a specific reductive vernacular term, never exercise only one kind of practice but mix many, to accumulate many powers and to act at different levels to give an holistic protection and cure.
Finally, people confronted with sickness always have recourse to many practices and healers at the same time, to increase their luck by different means, at different levels. Personal "parcours thérapeutiques" show that logical consistence is considered as less important that practical efficiency.
"WHY ARE TRANSVESTITIES BETTER THAN WOMEN AT MAKING WOMEN BEAUTIFUL IN MANDALAY?"
"THE ANNUAL CEREMONY OF AN ARIYAWEIZZADHOUR SECT"
Most of the Buddhist organizations in Burma concerned with the belief in weizzadhours (P. vijjadhara) hold an annual ceremony attended by their members. Although these ceremonies may be of utmost importance to the organizations and their members, they have not yet received much scholarly attention. A conspicuous feature of the cult of the weizzadours, which will be discussed and illustrated in this paper, is the use of royal symbolism, insignia and symbols pertaining to the cakkavattin ideal, the "world emperor", as well as alleged connections to past royal dynasties.
The aim of this paper is to delineate and render how some of the rituals are performed during the annual ceremony at the spacious temple compound of an ariyaweizza sect, and to unravel the various objectives for holding it. By holding the ceremony, the participants believe, for instance, that certain results will be produced, such as fulfillment of wishes. These may be a wish to bring about a set of cosmological effects, to be able to successfully propagate the Sasana (thathana-pyu), to be able to save beings (thatta-wa-keh), to have the opportunity to meet the future Buddha's (Arimetteyya Buddha, Rama Buddha etc), and a variety of other wishes. Most of the members have taken a vow to become an hpayalaung, that is, a bodhisattva, in order to attain buddhahood in a very distant future. All the higher weizzadhours and natbyahmas (devas from the Brahma heaven) are invited to attend the ceremony, to make the participants wishes become fulfilled.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5
RESPONSES TO CYCLONE NARGIS
"NARGIS RELIEF AND THE ENTRENCHMENT OF MILITARY POWER IN BURMA"
"GITAMEIT MUSIC CENTER UNLEARNING AVOIDANCE SHAUN SHA DA"
One of many obstacles encountered in starting Gitameit Music Center in 2003 was a rash of criticism by both friends and detractors in Yangon that the school would never get off the ground, be closed by the government, suffer internal fracture, or that Burmese students were not "ready" or fit for such an endeavor, that resources and Burmese society lacked sinews to support an institution with goals in music-making and teaching similar to many all over the world.
With all due respect to the nay-sayers -acknowledging that at any moment there could be a collapse for unpredictable or predictable reasons - Gitameit has prospered, developed a fine secular chorus, several a cappella vocal groups, jazz band, string ensemble, Burmese music ensemble, sponsored theatre performances and new compositions, sent students for exchange study abroad, participated in community outreach projects and performed more than 400 concerts in Yangon, Mawlamyaing, Mandalay, Myitkyina, Mogok and elsewhere and had supportive journal coverage since 2004. All this with an amicable combination of both foreign and local teachers, visitors from 'outside' and the tenacity of the adult musicians on the 'inside'.
This paper addresses that tenacity on the part of the Burmese students - Burman, Mon, Shan, Zo, Karen, Buddhist and Christian - to become musicians in a supportive community and take on - rather than avoid - challenging issues in musical and social development.