This paper examines Sgaw Karen documents and analyzes the historical context of the formation of the Karen National Association or KNA. The KNA was founded in 1881 in British Burma. Previous literature has narrated the historical background of this event referring to the British colonial officer’s account and thus far failed to reassess the colonial perspective of such narrative. While the colonial narrative has explained that the Karen’ claim of nation as the testimony of British’ good governance and development, this article reassesses the events through the viewpoint of the Karen side. The documents written by the KNA founders provide concrete clues to investigate the Karen Baptist intellectuals’ intention as to why they formed a political association, claiming nation in the early 1880s. According to historical sources, the Karen Baptist intellectuals recalled three particular events which took place in 1880 and 1881: 1, the audience with the Viceroy of India at Rangoon; 2, the organization of the KNA; and 3, the 1881 census-taking. Analyzing how they correlated the organization of their association with the British colonial activities, this paper argues that the Karen Baptist intellectuals came to notice the politics of numbers at work under the British administration. Then, the Karen Baptist intellectuals demonstrated their aim of representing Karen as a collective body, using such expression; pwākanyaw dawkalụ (the Karen nation).This paper finally points out that proclaiming their nationhood in the early 1880s was chiefly to attract more attention from the British authority and make the Karen population recognized properly as a member people of British Burma.


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pp. 275-314
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