- Editor’s Note
Welcome to the second issue of The Journal of Burma Studies for the year 2020. The year is no doubt extreme and memorable for the massive bushfires in Australia, followed by the global scale of the concern of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has affected communities worldwide, including our scholarly community. However, it is important in these times to maintain support for scholarship and research in Burma/Myanmar studies, and this issue gives us food for thought across a variety of areas and scholarly perspectives.
In the first article in this issue, “The Development of National Ideology in Myanmar: Political Socialization and the Role of the Tatmadaw since the Second World War,” Ye Phone Kyaw offers an in-depth historical survey of political ideologies operationalized by power holders in the country’s twentieth-century history. Making use of numerous original sources Ye Phone Kyaw offers considerable evidence to counter any assumption that military rule was entirely stagnant or made use of the same directives throughout its rise to power or during its continued rule over the decades. As the author’s argument asserts, there are five phases in the development of its national ideology (with the fifth ongoing today). These have each created a central role for the Tatmadaw.
From the role of the armed forces, the next article looks to political relations outside of the country. Kristina Kironska’s article, “The New Era of Sino-Burmese Relations: Changes in the Bilateral Relationship in View of China’s Rise and Myanmar’s Reforms,” presents the antecedents to the current relationship between Myanmar and China. Kironska operationalizes the notion of a double-hedging strategy to examine how the Myanmar government has reached out to other nations through reforms, but how the Belt and Road Initiative, coupled with the Rohingya crisis, has potentially realigned political power holders in the country. [End Page iii]
Turning to another aspect of Myanmar–China relations, but from the grassroot perspective, Laur Kiik’s article, “Confluences amid Conflict: How Resisting China’s Myitsone Dam Project Linked Kachin and Bamar Nationalisms in War-Torn Burma,” looks at how interethnic relations have changed in the face of the project for the Chinese-sponsored Myitsone mega-dam. Although Kachin and Bamar communities may have had their differences, the former fearing the loss of their homeland while the latter concerned about Chinese colonialism, they were able to link up in their opposition to the project.
From present relations to past understanding of ethnic difference, Hitomi Fujimura makes use of Sgaw Karen sources to offer a challenging new dimension for exploring ideas of race and nationality in colonial Burma. While other works on Burmese texts and colonial censuses have examined the ways in which ideas of lumyo and amyo became resignified during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Fujimura’s article, “Disentangling the Colonial Narrative of the Karen National Association of 1881: The Motive behind Karen Baptist Intellectuals’ Claim for a Nation,” looks at another group whose vested interests in national races were brought to the fore: Karen Baptist intellectuals. In addition to their changing relationships to Burmese political power because of the British colonial imposition, they added to their understandings of race and culture some of the racial understandings of the American Baptist missionaries whose evangelical activities among Karen communities effected major cultural, if not existential, transformations for some. In order for the newly formed Karen National Associations to survive within the changing discourses of state power, they sought to emphasize their uniqueness and their presence as a historical nation, couched in contemporary languages of ethnic identity.
In addition to the four research articles, this issue of The Journal of Burma Studies presents a short biographical essay of Myanmar historian Daw Kyan who has not only written extensively since the 1960s but has also mentored many scholars in the field. Finally, of interest to scholars of media, [End Page iv] everyday politics and Myanmar royal paintings are reviews of recent books on those topics.
Thank you for your continued support for The Journal of Burma Studies. [End Page v]