This issue represents an exciting new topic for The Journal of Burma Studies, a publication that in the past mostly focused on the hegemonic Myanmar ethnic group, the Bama. Developments in the past few years have, however, enabled greater scholarly access to some of Myanmar’s lesser-known populations that make up the mosaic of its complex social fabric. One such group is the Wa. The world’s first conference panel devoted entirely to Wa studies took place at the International Burma Studies Conference in Marseille, on July 9, 2010, convened by Justin Watkins of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. The following articles derive from that gathering which marked a new chapter in the history of Wa studies. These essays are significant for their scholarly contributions, but also because of their subject’s relevance to current events, generated by the Wa’s geographic location. The Wa people straddle the Myanmar-China border, inhabiting simultaneously two unstable settings: a Myanmar gradually opening to the West, and a China contending with unprecedented political and economic developments. The articles build on the richness of Wa culture and history, and suggest further research opportunities. They reflect also the fruitful interaction between scholars in various disciplines, boundary-crossing investigations, and how cooperation between non-governmental organizations, international aid agencies, and scholarly enterprises enriches our familiarity with hitherto less known aspects of Myanmar’s past and present.
Anthropologist Magnus Fiskesjö surveys the field of Wa studies, past investigations and their authors, to indicate further opportunities for innovative research and some key sources available for the study of the Wa’s history and culture. Linguists Justin Watkins and Atsushi Yamada offer articles on Wa language and culture: Watkins on the treasure-house of Wa proverbs and Yamada on one of the many dialects of the Wa language. Anthropologists Jianxiong Ma and Bernard Formoso provide their individual perspectives on Wa history [End Page ii] in relation to their neighbors and on the significance of Wa traditions of warfare (“headhunting”). The last article is by Ronald D. Renard on the contemporary situation in the Wa State in Myanmar (Burma’s Special Region 2), and the responses of Wa leaders as they reformulated their various policies in light of changing circumstances.
The Scholarly Curiosities section features a piece from the Journal’s General Editor and Center for Burma Studies Director Catherine Raymond related to the cover illustration and contextualizing the depiction in the currently available materials on how ethnic groups were portrayed in the heyday of the British empire.
This issue also publishes an article authored by Marie Lall and Hla Hla Win on the 2011 election, based on a mixed-methods research approach. The authors provide a glimpse of a rarely examined aspect of Myanmar’s current political upheavals: young people’s attitudes toward fundamental notions of citizenship and political participation. [End Page iii]