Exploring Ethnic Diversity in Burma

edited by Mikael Gravers

  • Published:
  • Pages: 304 pp.
  • illustrated
  • Series number: 39
Available from NIAS Press worldwide

this volume discusses the historical formation of ethnic identity and its complexities in relation to British colonial rule as well as to the modern State, the present situation of military rule and its policy of ‘myanmarfication’. Changes of identity in exile and due to religious conversion are analysed and discussed. The book deals with relevant and recent anthropological and sociological theoretical discussions on the ethnic identity, boundaries and space of all the main ethnic groups in Burma.

• Goes beyond the image of human rights abuses in Burma to probe the country’s many ethnic and religious conflicts

• The most comprehensive and detailed study ever of huge variety of ethnic groups living in Burma

• An important contribution to the study of formation of ethnic identity, boundaries and space

While the image of modern Myanmar/Burma tends to be couched in human rights terms - and especially of a heroic Aung San Suu Kyi opposing an oppressive military regime - in reality there are several conflicts with ethnic and religious dimensions, as well as political and ideological differences between the opposition and the ruling military regime. This is not surprising in a country where 30% of the population and much of the land area are non-Burman, and where contradictory tendencies towards regional separatism versus unitary rule have divided the people since before independence.

In what is probably the most comprehensive study of Burma’s ethnic minorities to date, this volume discusses the historical formation of ethnic identity and its complexities in relation to British colonial rule as well as to the modern State, the present situation of military rule and its policy of ‘myanmarfication’. Changes of identity in exile and due to religious conversion are analysed and discussed.

Finally, the book deals with relevant and recent anthropological and sociological theoretical discussions on the ethnic identity, boundaries and space of all the main ethnic groups in Burma. It probes into the complexity and diversity and it provides more details and up-to-date information than previously collected in one volume.

 

author image not supplied

 Since 1970-1972 he has conducted ethnographic fieldwork among the Karen ethnic group in Thailand (and Burma). The first fieldwork in Uthaithani and Kanchanaburi provinces was among the Buddhist Pwo Karen (Ga Ploung) and he speaks a proficient Pwo.

 Since 1970-1972 he has conducted ethnographic fieldwork among the Karen ethnic group in Thailand (and Burma). The first fieldwork in Uthaithani and Kanchanaburi provinces was among the Buddhist Pwo Karen (Ga Ploung) and he speaks a proficient Pwo. He has visited this area numerous times and since 1999 also conducted fieldwork among Christian and Buddhist Sgaw (Pgha G’Nyau) and Pwo in Chiang Mai and Lamphun provinces as well as among Karen refugees from Burma. His work on Burma is mainly based on archival research in the Oriental & India Office Collections, The British Library and Public Record Office, Kew in London. He has met with ethnic leaders from the Karen National Union and other ethnic organizations.

From 1999 to 2001 Mikael Gravers was the director of the anthropological part of the interdisciplinary Thai-Danish environmental research project Forest & People in Thailand.He has published on subjects such as ethnicity, nationalism; religion and politics; notions of nature and environment in Burma and Thailand.

Mikael Gravers has been a Nordic and European scholar in NIAS and received a grant from HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark’s Fund. Danish media often request his analysis of events in Burma and Thailand.

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by Volker Grabowsky
From journal:
Anthropos 103.2008

Exploring Ethnic Diversity in Burma is … a most welcome contribution not only to our understanding of the current situation in this important Southeast Asian country, it also enriches theoretical discourses on ethnicity and nationhood.

Exploring Ethnic Diversity in Burma is … a most welcome contribution not only to our understanding of the current situation in this important Southeast Asian country, it also enriches theoretical discourses on ethnicity and nationhood.

Exploring Ethnic Diversity in Burma is an important contribution to understanding the ethnic factor in present-day Burmese politics.  It is also highly recommended to students of other mutltiethnic societies in Southeast Asia and outside the region.

by Prof. Dr. Roland Mischung, University of Hamburg
From journal:
Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 28 (4), 2009

 … timely and highly welcome to specialists on Southeast Asia and ethnicity in general. … [T]he volume in its entirety is certainly a storehouse containing a wide array of mutually complementary information and thematic aspects that converge into a rich, multifaceted overall picture unmatched by any other recent publication on Burma.

 … timely and highly welcome to specialists on Southeast Asia and ethnicity in general. … [T]he volume in its entirety is certainly a storehouse containing a wide array of mutually complementary information and thematic aspects that converge into a rich, multifaceted overall picture unmatched by any other recent publication on Burma. It is simply a must for scholars concerned with Burmese society as well as for anyone interested in the future of this country or the complexities of ethnic identification.

by Jane Ferguson, Australian National University
From journal:
Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 40 (3), 2009

Gravers’ edited volume, Exploring ethnic diversity in Burma, offers a much-needed interdisciplinary addition to Southeast Asian Studies in general, as well as Burma studies in particular, as it unites the work of eight scholars of Burma to discuss the various issues of ethnic categorisation, politics and conceptualisation in the country.

Gravers’ edited volume, Exploring ethnic diversity in Burma, offers a much-needed interdisciplinary addition to Southeast Asian Studies in general, as well as Burma studies in particular, as it unites the work of eight scholars of Burma to discuss the various issues of ethnic categorisation, politics and conceptualisation in the country. As Gravers rightly notes, the book is the first of its kind in several decades, and represents a crucial step in redressing the fact that much popular discourse conflates Burma Studies with Bamar Studies. In so doing, the volume not only surveys and problematises the ways in which political and geographic understandings of human diversity in the region have led both to conflict and resistance, but also seeks to examine how ethnic categories and exception have often defied those very categories as well.

by Hayami Yoko
From journal:
Southeast Asian Studies, vol. 46, no. 3, 2008

“A well-informed academic volume such as this on ethinicity in Burma has been much needed, and any audience will find the chapters richly informative and many of them stimulating.”

“A well-informed academic volume such as this on ethinicity in Burma has been much needed, and any audience will find the chapters richly informative and many of them stimulating.”

by Jasmin Lorch
From journal:
Internationales Asienforum, 39 (1-2), 2008

… both timely and politically highly relevant. It analyses the historical formation of ethnic identity in Burma in relation to British colonial rule and the post-colonial Burmese state with its emphasis on unitary nationalism and its efforts to promote “Myanmarification”.

… both timely and politically highly relevant. It analyses the historical formation of ethnic identity in Burma in relation to British colonial rule and the post-colonial Burmese state with its emphasis on unitary nationalism and its efforts to promote “Myanmarification”.

by William Womack
From journal:
SOAS Bulletin Burma Research, vol. 6, 2008

This volume … helps to fill a twofold gap in the scholarly literature in ethnicity in mainland Southeast Asia, namely a lack of evidence from within Burma and a dearth of historical data on ethnic formation. … The volume as a whole provides a very useful cross-section of research on ethnicity in Burma leading up to a critical juncture in its history.

This volume … helps to fill a twofold gap in the scholarly literature in ethnicity in mainland Southeast Asia, namely a lack of evidence from within Burma and a dearth of historical data on ethnic formation. … The volume as a whole provides a very useful cross-section of research on ethnicity in Burma leading up to a critical juncture in its history.

by Bertil Lintner
From journal:
The Irrawaddy, October 2007

"…contains useful information about Burma’s main, non-Burman ethnic groups."

"…contains useful information about Burma’s main, non-Burman ethnic groups."

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