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Burma at the Turn of the 21st Century

Monique Skidmore

Publication Year: 2005

This is the first study in a half century of one of the least known societies in the contemporary world. Burma at the Turn of the 21st Century provides insight into the everyday lives, concerns, and values of the people of this reclusive nation. Prominent anthropologists and religion scholars with in-depth, long-term knowledge of central Burma offer detailed analyses of the ways in which Burmese actively manage and create lives for themselves in the shadow of a military dictatorship. Their research crosses the domains of religious, political, and social life, examining public festivals and performance, local-state relations, literary life, lottery frenzies, mass meditators, political rumors and black humor, the value of children, changing male identities, and more in this impressive, wide-ranging collection.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Front Matter

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

Not many editors can say that an edited volume was a pleasure to put together, but this has been true for Burma at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. The Burmese scholarly community is small and welcoming, and Burmese conferences seem more like family reunions and pwes (festivals), ...

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–1–Introduction: Burma at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 1-18

Burma at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century is the first collection of essays about everyday life in Burma in forty years. The anthropologists and scholars of religion who have contributed to this volume show how everyday negotiations about culture, power, and group and individual identity play out in contemporary Burma. ...

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–2–The Cheaters: Journey to the Land of the Lottery

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pp. 19-40

During the two days of my journey deep into the Burmese archipelago of the lottery, I wasn’t able to stop thinking about the short but striking story by Shway Yoe (1963:528–30), alias James Scott, concerning the introduction of the lottery to the suffering Burmese kingdom of Mandalay. After two Anglo-Burmese ...

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–3–Women’s Practices of Renunciation in the Age of Sāsana Revival

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pp. 41-64

Periodically in the infinite round of rebirths that is samsāra,1 a buddha by virtue of his extraordinary efforts of purification over incalculable eons of time will discover and proclaim the dhamma, the liberating law. The teachings of buddhas are always the same. They illuminate for the world and the heavens the Four ...

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–4–The Taungbyon Festival: Locality and Nation-Confronting in the Cult of the 37 Lords

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pp. 65-89

The village of Taungbyon lies ten kilometers north of Mandalay, the last Burmese royal city. It hosts the best known of the central Burmese festivals honoring the spirits of deceased heroes who are called nat and who belong to the Burmese pantheon of the “37 Lords.” Among nat festivals, that of Taungbyon ...

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–5–Respected Grandfather, Bless This Nissan: Benevolent and Politically Neutral Bo Bo Gyi

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pp. 90-112

Visitors to the southwest corner of the Shwedagon pagoda platform will come across a statue of a rather portly gentleman who is getting on in years and is holding on tightly to a staff, his face looking down on homagepayers with the gentle smile of a dear grandfather or favorite uncle. The Burmese people ...

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–6–Buddhist Visions of Moral Authority and Modernity in Burma

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pp. 113-132

Since the popular uprising in 1988, the confrontation between the military regime and the pro-democracy forces has ground to a seemingly unchanging stalemate with no foreseeable solution to the political impasse. The change of government to representatives of the National League for Democracy (NLD), ...

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–7–Sacralizing or Demonizing Democracy? Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Personality Cult”

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pp. 133-153

The May 1990 elections in Burma resulted in a decisive victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD), largely as the result of the popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the popular national hero Aung San. Over time, however, the NLD has been unable to make actual its victory against ...

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–8–The Chicken and the Scorpion: Rumor, Counternarratives, and the Political Uses of Buddhism

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pp. 154-174

In this chapter I analyze the meaning and content of rumors current in Burma at the beginning of the 1990s. Several years after its defeat in a general election, the military regime began to look to Buddhism as a form of moral legitimacy in order to retain political power. The period from 1990 until Aung San Suu Kyi’s ...

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–9–Writing in a Crazy Way: Literary Life in Contemporary Urban Burma

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pp. 175-205

The publishing industry in Burma has been quite vibrant during the years of SLORC-SPDC rule in spite of the regime’s notorious opposition to press freedom. The publishing district is in the heart of Yangon (Rangoon) from Thirtieth to Fortieth streets. In these narrow roads, mostly in crumbling, ...

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–10–“But Princes Jump!”: Performing Masculinity in Mandalay

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pp. 206-228

The male star of a Burmese theatrical troupe is called a “prince” (min-tha) and in certain portions of such troupes’ night-long performances he takes on the dress and demeanor of an idealized Burmese male aristocrat. But it is difficult for an American observer, and I suspect this would be true for most Westerners, ...

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–11–Who’s Performing What? State Patronage and the Transformation of Burmese Music

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pp. 229-248

State funding of Burmese arts has increased enormously over the past decade.Music, theater, sculpture, dance, and puppetry, are just some of the arts that are currently enjoying a rise in prominence due to increased access to scarce government resources. This rise in patronage follows immediately on the heels ...

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–12–The Future of Burma: Children Are Like Jewels

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pp. 249-270



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pp. 271-286


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pp. 287-290


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pp. 291-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861728
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824828578

Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ethnology -- Burma.
  • Burma -- Social life and customs.
  • Burma -- Social conditions.
  • Burma -- Politics and government -- 1962-1988.
  • Burma -- Politics and government -- 1988-.
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