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Beyond the Last Village
A Journey Of Discovery In Asia's Forbidden Wilderness
Alan Rabinowitz
Island Press, 2001

In 1993, Alan Rabinowitz, called "the Indiana Jones" of wildlife science by The New York Times, arrived for the first time in the country of Myanmar, known until 1989 as Burma, uncertain of what to expect. Working under the auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Society, his goal was to establish a wildlife research and conservation program and to survey the country's wildlife. He succeeded beyond all expectations, not only discovering a species of primitive deer completely new to science but also playing a vital role in the creation of Hkakabo Razi National Park, now one of Southeast Asia's largest protected areas.

Beyond the Last Village takes the reader on a journey of exploration, danger, and discovery in this remote corner of the planet at the southeast edge of the Himalayas where tropical rain forest and snow-covered mountains meet. As we travel through this "lost world" -- a mysterious and forbidding region isolated by ancient geologic forces -- we meet the Rawang, a former slave group, the Taron, a solitary enclave of the world's only pygmies of Asian ancestry, and Myanmar Tibetans living in the furthest reaches of the mountains. We enter the territories of strange, majestic-looking beasts that few people have ever heard of and fewer have ever seen -- golden takin, red goral, blue sheep, black barking deer. The survival of these ancient species is now threatened, not by natural forces but by hunters with snares and crossbows, trading body parts for basic household necessities.

The powerful landscape and unique people the author befriends help him come to grips with the traumas and difficulties of his past and emerge a man ready to embrace the world anew. Interwoven with his scientific expedition in Myanmar, and helping to inform his understanding of the people he met and the situations he encountered, is this more personal journey of discovery.

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Burma
The Curse of Independence
Shelby Tucker
Pluto Press, 2001
Burma offers the first up-to-date overview and understanding of Burma’s tragic armed conflict in the twentieth century. Examining the ‘causes’ of the war, Shelby Tucker traces the political development of the country from the occupations by the British and Japanese and eventual independence in 1942, through the army coup of 1962 led by Ne Win, which established an authoritarian state, to the pro-democracy movement of the late 1980s. Tucker examines Burma’s drug trade; scrutinises Burma’s civil rights record; examines the role of the Nationalist leader Aung Seng, who attempted to unite the various sections of the population; the impact of Seng’s assassination and subsequent power struggles; and considers the future for a government faced with armed opposition from separatist movements among the ethnic minorities of Burma’s regions.
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Burma
The State of Myanmar
David I. Steinberg
Georgetown University Press

Long isolated by rigid military rule, Burma, or Myanmar, is one of the least known, significantly sized states in the world. Possessed of a rich cultural history yet facing a range of challenges to stability and growth, it has struck the imaginations of those concerned not only with geopolitical or trade affairs but also with poverty, health, and human rights. David I. Steinberg sheds new light on this reclusive state by exploring issues of authority and legitimacy in its politics, economics, social structure, and culture since the popular uprising and military coup of 1988.

Exploring the origins of that year’s tumultuous events, Steinberg analyzes a generation of preceding military governments and their attempts to address the nation’s problems. He focuses on the role of the military, the effects of Burma’s geopolitical placement, the plight of the poor, the destruction of civil society, and rising ethnic tensions. While taking into account the importance of foreign observers as counterpoints to official views, suppliers of economic aid, and advocates of reform, Steinberg contends that ultimately, the solutions to Myanmar’s varied problems lie with the Burmese themselves and the policies of their government.

The paperback edition includes a postcript that reveals the most current and critical issues facing Burma since the publication of the original hardcover in March 2001. Steinberg brings readers up to date on the recent release of political prisoners, economic and military conditions, United Nations actions, and the complex, ever-changing relationship between Thailand and Myanmar.

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Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement
Buddhism and the Cultural Construction of Power
Ingrid Jordt
Ohio University Press, 2007

Burma's Mass Lay Meditation Movement: Buddhism and the Cultural Construction of Power describes a transformation in Buddhist practice in contemporary Burma. This revitalization movement has had real consequences for how the oppressive military junta, in power since the early 1960s, governs the country.

Drawing on more than ten years of extensive fieldwork in Burma, Ingrid Jordt explains how vipassanā meditation has brought about a change of worldview for millions of individuals, enabling them to think and act independently of the totalitarian regime. She addresses human rights as well as the relationship between politics and religion in a country in which neither the government nor the people clearly separates the two. Jordt explains how the movement has been successful in its challenge to the Burmese military dictatorship where democratically inspired resistance movements have failed.

Jordt's unsurpassed access to the centers of political and religious power in Burma becomes the reader's opportunity to witness the political workings of one of the world's most secretive and tyrannically ruled countries. Burma's Mass Lay Meditation Movement is a valuable contribution to Buddhist studies as well as anthropology, religious studies, and political science.

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The Coffin Tree
Wendy Law-Yone
Northwestern University Press, 2003
Wendy Law-Yone opens her first novel with the phrase of a survivor, "Living things prefer to go on living." A young woman and her older half-brother are expelled from their home in Burma by a savage political coup. Sent to elusive safety in America, the motherless siblings find themselves engulfed by the indifference, hypocrisy, and cruelty of an American society unable to deal with difference. Her brother's death drives the unnamed narrator into the seclusion of a mental hospital, where memories of her childhood and the strength it ingrained in her are enough to heal her heart and return her to the outside world.
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Everyday Economic Survival in Myanmar
Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Reforms in Myanmar (formerly Burma) have eased restrictions on citizens' political activities. Yet for most Burmese, Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung shows, eking out a living from day to day leaves little time for civic engagement. Citizens have coped with extreme hardship through great resourcefulness. But by making bad situations more tolerable in the short term, these coping strategies may hinder the emergence of the democratic values needed to sustain the country's transition to a more open political environment.

Thawnghmung conducted in-depth interviews and surveys of 372 individuals from all walks of life and across geographical locations in Myanmar between 2008 and 2015. To frame her analysis, she provides context from countries with comparable political and economic situations. Her findings will be welcomed by political scientists and policy analysts, as well by journalists and humanitarian activists looking for substantive, reliable information about everyday life in a country that remains largely in the shadows.
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Free Burma
Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability
John G. Dale
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
When the military’s ruling party violently quashed Burma’s pro-democracy movement, diplomatic condemnation quickly followed—to little effect. But when Burma’s activists began linking the movement to others around the world, the result was dramatically different. This book is the first to explain how Burma’s pro-democracy movement became a transnational social movement for human rights.

Through the experience of the Free Burma movement, John G. Dale demonstrates how social movements create and appropriate legal mechanisms for generating new transnational political opportunities. He presents three corporate accountability campaigns waged by the Free Burma movement. The cases focus on the legislation of “Free Burma” laws in local governments throughout the United States; the effort to force the state of California to de-charter Unocal Oil Corporation for its flagrant abuse of human rights; and the first-ever use of the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act to sue a corporation in a U.S. court for human rights abuses committed abroad. Dale’s work also raises the issue of how foreign policies of so-called constructive engagement actually pose a threat to the hope of Burma’s activists—and others worldwide—for more democratic economic development.
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Industrialization in Late-Developing ASEAN Countries
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam
Naoko Amakawa
National University of Singapore Press, 2010
Late industrializing countries are able to pick strategies for economic development based on the experiences of countries that preceded them. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (the CLMV countries) were closed off from the international community for many years, and they began to embrace a market economy at around the same time. Each bypassed the import-substitution strategy adopted by other Southeast Asian countries and began industrialization efforts with export growth funded by Foreign Direct Investment.



The outcomes differed significantly owing to geographical location, government policies, and internal economic conditions. Industrialization in Late-Developing ASEAN Countries explores these differences through case studies based on an extended research program conducted by the Institute of Developing Economies in Tokyo, which offered insights into models of economic growth, and into the trajectories followed by the four countries examined.
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Life in the Valley of Death
The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed
Alan Rabinowitz
Island Press, 2010
Dubbed the Indiana Jones of wildlife science by The New York Times, Alan Rabinowitz has devoted—and risked—his life to protect nature’s great endangered mammals. He has journeyed to the remote corners of the earth in search of wild things, weathering treacherous terrain, plane crashes, and hostile governments. Life in the Valley of Death recounts his most ambitious and dangerous adventure yet: the creation of the world’s largest tiger preserve.
 
The tale is set in the lush Hukaung Valley of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. An escape route for refugees fleeing the Japanese army during World War II, this rugged stretch of land claimed the lives of thousands of children, women, and soldiers. Today it is home to one of the largest tiger populations outside of India—a population threatened by rampant poaching and the recent encroachment of gold prospectors.
 
To save the remaining tigers, Rabinowitz must navigate not only an unforgiving landscape, but the tangled web of politics in Myanmar. Faced with a military dictatorship, an insurgent army, tribes once infamous for taking the heads of their enemies, and villagers living on less than one U.S. dollar per day, the scientist and adventurer most comfortable with animals is thrust into a diplomatic minefield. As he works to balance the interests of disparate factions and endangered wildlife, his own life is threatened by an incurable disease.
 
The resulting story is one of destruction and loss, but also renewal. In forests reviled as the valley of death, Rabinowitz finds new life for himself, for communities haunted by poverty and violence, and for the tigers he vowed to protect.
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Master of the Air
William Tunner and the Success of Military Airlift
Robert A. Slayton
University of Alabama Press, 2010
 
In 1948, just as the Cold War was settling into the form it would maintain for nearly half a century, major antagonists the US and the USSR began maneuvering into a series of dangerously hostile encounters. Trouble had broken out in Poland and Czechoslovakia, but it was in Germany, which had been at the heart of World Wars One and Two, that the first potentially explosive confrontation developed. The USSR, which had suffered more at Germany’s hands than the rest of the Allies combined, may have viewed developments there with heightened fear and irritability. When the western Allies moved to consolidate their areas of control in occupied Germany, the USSR responded by cutting off land access to West Berlin, holding over two million residents of that city hostage in an aggressive act of brinkmanship.

Into this difficult situation the US placed General William Henry Tunner. He was given a task that seemed doomed to failure—to supply a major city by air with everything it needed to survive from food to a winter’s supply of coal—and made it a brilliant success, astonishing the world in a major public relations defeat for the Soviets, and demonstrating the unexpected capacity of air fleets in a postwar world.
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Metamorphosis
Studies in Social and Political Change in Myanmar
Edited by Renaud Egreteau and François Robinne
National University of Singapore Press, 2015
With a young population of more than 52 million, an ambitious roadmap for political reform, and on the cusp of rapid economic development, since 2010 the world’s attention has been drawn to Myanmar or Burma.


   But underlying recent political transitions are other wrenching social changes and shocks, a set of transformations less clearly mapped out. Relations between ethnic and religious groups, in the context of Burma’s political model of a state composed of ethnic groups, are a particularly important “unsolved equation”.


         The editors use the notion of metamorphosis to look at Myanmar today and tomorrow—a term that accommodates linear change, stubborn persistence and the possibility of dramatic transformation. Divided into four sections, on politics, identity and ethnic relations, social change in fields like education and medicine, and the evolutions of religious institutions, the volume takes a broad view, combining an anthropological approach with views from political scientists and historians. This volume is an essential guide to the political and social challenges ahead for Myanmar.
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Myth and History in the Historiography of Early Burma
Paradigms, Primary Sources, and Prejudices
Michael A. Aung-Thwin
Ohio University Press, 1998

After careful re-reading and analysis of original Old Burmese and other primary sources, the author discovered that four out of the five events considered to be the most important in the history of early Burma, and believed to have been historically accurate, are actually late-nineteenth and twentieth-century inventions of colonial historians caught in their own intellectual and political world.

Only one of these is a genuine indigenous Burmese myth, but it too has been embellished by modern historians.

The author discusses each of these five myths and concludes with an assessment of the current situation in Burma in the context of the new myths springing up today, thereby bringing the thirteenth century into the twentieth.

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Not Out of Hate
A Novel of Burma
Ma Ma Lay
Ohio University Press, 1991
Not Out of Hate—published in Burmese in 1955 and set in 1939–42—was Ma Ma Lay’s fifth novel and one that further cemented her status as one of twentieth-century Burma’s foremost writers and voices for change. A journalist by trade, Lay applied her straightforward observational style with compassion and purpose to the story of Way Way, a teenage village girl whose quiet life assisting her father in his rice-brokerage business is disrupted by the arrival of U Saw Han, the cosmopolitan Burmese rice trader twenty years her senior. When she first encounters him, Way Way is entranced by his Western furnishings, servants, and mannerisms. The two marry, but before long, it becomes clear that U Saw Han’s love is a stifling one that seeks to obliterate her traditional ways. Not Out of Hate was enormously popular in Burma and went through several editions in the 1950s and 1960s. When Ohio University Press published its English translation, in 1991, it became the first significant fictional account of prewar Burma available in English since George Orwell’s Burmese Days, and provided a Burmese counterpoint to Orwell’s novel. Translated into English here for the first time, the novel is an engaging drama, finely observed work of social realism, and stirring rejection of Western cultural dominance.
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Project 9
The Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II
Dennis R. Okerstrom
University of Missouri Press, 2014
Project 9: The Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II is a thoroughly researched narrative of the Allied joint project to invade Burma by air. Beginning with its inception at the Quebec Conference of 1943 and continuing through Operation Thursday until the death of the brilliant British General Orde Wingate in March 1944, less than a month after the successful invasion of Burma, Project 9 details all aspects of this covert mission, including the selection of the American airmen, the procurement of the aircraft, the joint training with British troops, and the dangerous night-time assault behind Japanese lines by glider.
 
Based on review of hundreds of documents as well as interviews with surviving Air Commandos, this is the history of a colorful, autonomous, and highly effective military unit that included some of the most recognizable names of the era. Tasked by the General of the Army Air Forces, H. H. “Hap” Arnold, to provide air support for British troops under the eccentric Major General Wingate as they operated behind Japanese lines in Burma, the Air Commandos were breaking entirely new ground in operational theory, tactics, and inter-Allied cooperation. Okerstrom’s in-depth research and analysis in Project 9 shed light on the operations of America’s first foray into special military operations, when these heroes led the way for the formation of modern special operations teams such as Delta Force and Seal Team Six.
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Repossessing Shanland
Myanmar, Thailand, and a Nation-State Deferred
Jane M. Ferguson
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Around five million people across Southeast Asia identify as Shan. Though the Shan people were promised an independent state in the 1947 Union of Burma constitution, successive military governments blocked their liberation. From 1958 onward, insurgency movements, including the Shan United Revolution Army, have fought for independence from Myanmar. Refugees numbering in the hundreds of thousands fled to Thailand to escape the conflict, despite struggling against oppressive citizenship laws there. Several decades of continuous rebellion have created a vacuum in which literati and politicians have constructed a virtual Shan state that lives on in popular media, rock music, and Buddhist ritual.

Based on close readings of Shan-language media and years of ethnographic research in a community of soldiers and their families, Jane M. Ferguson details the origins of these movements and tells the story of the Shan in their own voices. She shows how the Shan have forged a homeland and identity during great upheaval by using state building as an ongoing project of resistance, resilience, and accommodation within both countries. In avoiding a good/bad moral binary and illuminating cultural complexities, Repossessing Shanland offers a fresh perspective on identity formation, transformation, and how people understand and experience borderlands today.
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The Return of the Galon King
History, Law, and Rebellion in Colonial Burma
Maitrii Aung-Thwin
Ohio University Press, 2010

In late 1930, on a secluded mountain overlooking the rural paddy fields of British Burma, a peasant leader named Saya San crowned himself King and inaugurated a series of uprisings that would later erupt into one of the largest anti-colonial rebellions in Southeast Asian history. Considered an imposter by the British, a hero by nationalists, and a prophet-king by area-studies specialists, Saya San came to embody traditional Southeast Asia’s encounter with European colonialism in his attempt to resurrect the lost throne of Burma.

The Return of the Galon King analyzes the legal origins of the Saya San story and reconsiders the facts upon which the basic narrative and interpretations of the rebellion are based. Aung-Thwin reveals how counter-insurgency law produced and criminalized Burmese culture, contributing to the way peasant resistance was recorded in the archives and understood by Southeast Asian scholars.

This interdisciplinary study reveals how colonial anthropologists, lawyers, and scholar-administrators produced interpretations of Burmese culture that influenced contemporary notions of Southeast Asian resistance and protest. It provides a fascinating case study of how history is treated by the law, how history emerges in legal decisions, and how the authority of the past is used to validate legal findings.

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Stilwell and Mountbatten in Burma
Allies at War, 1943-1944
Jonathan Templin Ritter
University of North Texas Press, 2017

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Wartime in Burma
A Diary, January to June 1942
Theippan Maung Wa
Ohio University Press, 2009

This diary, begun after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and covering the invasion of Burma up to June 1942, is a moving account of the dilemmas faced by the well-loved and prolific Burmese author Theippan Maung Wa (a pseudonym of U Sein Tin) and his family. At the time of the Japanese invasion, U Sein Tin was deputy secretary in the Ministry of Home and Defense Affairs. An Oxford-trained member of the Indian Civil Service, working for the British administration on the eve of the invasion, he lived with his wife and three small children in Rangoon.

Wartime in Burma is a stirring memoir that presents a personal account of U Sein Tin’s feelings about the war, his anxiety for the safety of his family, the bombing of Rangoon, and what happened to them during the next six chaotic months of the British retreat. The author and his family leave Rangoon to live in a remote forest in Upper Burma with several other Burmese civil servants, their staff, and valuable possessions—rich pickings for robbers. His diary ends abruptly on June 5, his forty-second birthday; U Sein Tin was murdered on June 6 by a gang of Burmese bandits. The diary pages, scattered on the floor of the house, were rescued by his wife and eventually published in Burma in 1966. What survives is a unique account that shines new light on the military retreat from Burma.

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