Abstract

As much as scholars know that Burmese identity was never singular or completely unified, we still allow the mirage of a singular nation to quietly seep into the assumptions that frame our research. As Prasenjit Duara has argued, the nation has become the subject of history. It shapes our disciplines and our orientations, as we write for and about Burma studies. A focused look at one moment in Burmese history, one document and even one person, however, reveals that even when efforts to produce a feeling of unity was at its peak, Burmese sense of themselves and their worldviews were inherently multiple. Diverse and hybrid modes of Burmese identity thrived even in the heart of the anti-colonial nationalist movement, and it was this multiplicity that made the response to colonialism possible. This article offers micro history of a single moment in the rise of the anti-colonial nationalist movement, looking at the meeting minutes of the Ninth All-Burma Conference of Burmese Associations and the biography of U Kyaw Yan a key figure of the period. Focusing in this way exposes the inherent multiplicity of Burmese worldview and identity at the micro level and help to make us, as scholars, more attuned to its impact in Burmese history in broader terms. In this, I offer a simple and perhaps obvious point: that when we return to the primary sources we find that history and the lives, motivations, and interactions of those we study are never as simple as the stories we tell about them.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2010-314X
Print ISSN
1094-799X
Pages
pp. 263-282
Launched on MUSE
2011-11-16
Open Access
No
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