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Charney, Michael W. (2021) How Racist is your Engagement with Burma Studies? FORSEA [Opinion Pieces / Media / Blogs]

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Abstract

How many of academics in recent memory have participated in a workshop on Southeast Asia or some aspect of it in which the overwhelming number of participants were white? If were to take Theravada Buddhist Studies as an example, in real life, 99% of all Theravada Buddhists are not white and probably 99% of all teachers, students, and researchers of Theravada Buddhism globally are non-white. How many participants in a typical Theravada Buddhist Studies workshop in the West are non-white? There are some exceptions where university programmes have a very heavy non-white participation, but what about the big centres for Theravada Buddhist Studies? Of course, Theravada Buddhist Studies and Myanmar Studies are not necessarily the same thing, Muslims, Christians, Animists, Hindus, Sikhs, and many others are also represented in Burma, but how many of those involved in the formal organizations of Myanmar Studies, the Burma Studies Group at the AAS, mentioned above? Not to pick on one organisation, but to examine the particular case of one prominent group in the field, how many of its heads are non-white? If we look at those who hold positions significant within the group, how many are non-white? Or, how many are based within the country, that is, within Myanmar? And of publications on Myanmar or Theravada Buddhism, how many of those cited in any given piece that is published non-white? Is there something wrong with disciplines, organisations, and events about a non-white country in which everything is directed towards mainly white audiences, administered mainly by white academics, and populated mainly by white participants. How did knowledge about Burma become essentially “white.”

Item Type: Opinion Pieces / Media / Blogs
Keywords: decolonising the academy; Burma Studies; Myanmar Studies; Structural Racism
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
D History General and Old World
Copyright Statement: © 2021 FORSEA | Forces of Renewal for Southeast Asia
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2021 08:42
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/35213
Related URLs: (Publisher URL)

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