Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma
Publication Year: 2011
The first book-length social history of Burma to utilize gender as a category of sustained analysis, Refiguring Women challenges the reigning nationalist and anticolonial historical narratives of a conceptually and institutionally monolithic colonial modernity that made inevitable the rise of ethnonationalism and xenophobia in Burma. The study demonstrates the irreducible heterogeneity of the colonial encounter and draws attention to the conjoined development of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. Ikeya illuminates the important roles that Burmese men and women played as cultural brokers and agents of modernity. She shows how their complex engagements with social reform, feminism, anticolonialism, media, and consumerism rearticulated the boundaries of belonging and foreignness in religious, racial, and ethnic terms.
Refiguring Women adds significantly to examinations of gender and race relations, modernization, and nationalism in colonized regions. It will be of interest to a broad audience—not least those working in the fields of Southeast Asian studies, colonial and postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and women’s and gender studies.
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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When I started my research in 2002, I had intended to focus on the Japanese occupation of Burma during the Second World War and the varied ways in which it was understood locally and within a broader context of Japan's rise as a non-European, modern, and imperial power. As is often the case with researchers, I left...
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The Burmese novel Mon ywe mahu (Not out of hate), written by Ma Ma Lay in 1955, tells of a tragic romance between Way Way, a young woman from an ordinary Burmese Buddhist family, and U Saw Han, an older and thoroughly Anglicized and impious Burmese man working for a British firm. Set in British Burma...
Chapter 1. The Colonial Setting
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The British colonization of Burma was piecemeal. It began in 1826 with the defeat of the Konbaung dynasty (1752-1885) in the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) and the loss of the provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim to the British goverment (see map 1.1). When the governor-general of the East India Company declared war on the...
Chapter 2. Women on the Rise Education and the Popular Press
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Since Anthony Reid reinforced the argument by George Coedès that women in Southeast Asia were conferred important roles by the culture of the region, the notion of the "traditional" high status of women in Southeast Asia has been foundational to paradigmatic understandings of the region as a distinct geopolitical...
Chapter 3. Between Patriotism and Feminism: Politicized and Organized Women
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Following on the heels of yuwadi columns were articles and featured columns that focused less on the emergent class of educated young women and were written by and for women in general (amyothami).1 A growing number of articles for and about women were published as regular features of newspapers...
Chapter 4. Modern Woman as Consumer: Fashion, Domesticity, and the Marketplace
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The educated, patriotic, and politicized women were joined by another incarnation of the modern woman who was less of an icon of social and political reform than were the other archetypes: the consumerist woman. The epitome of the khit hmi thu as consumer was the fashionista. Referred to most often as khit hsan thu...
Chapter 5. Mixing Religion and Race: Intermarriage, Miscegenation, and the Wives and Mistresses of Foreign Men
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The rapid growth in kabya (mixed) population was an inevitable outcome of colonization.1 In Burma, relationships between foreign men and native women persisted, and the kabya population continued to expand throughout policies of racial segregation.2 Yet the same period also...
Chapter 6. The Self-Indulgent Khit hsan thu: Culture, Nation, and Masculinity on Trial
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Wives and mistresses of foreigners were not the only unpatriotic women to appear in colonial-period Burmese discourses. The khit hsan thu and other variants of the fashionable female (discussed in chapter 4) also became the target of censorious and often misogynistic representations of Burmese women in the media...
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In 1973, eighteen years after the publication of her celebrated Mon ywe mahu (Not out of hate), Ma Ma Lay published Thway (Blood).1 This less well-known novel revisits the theme of the encounter between different cultures but takes a stance decidedly at odds with her earlier position...
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Glossary of Frequently Used Burmese Terms
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Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, and Memory