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Charney, Michael W. (2016) 'Review of Stephen Keck, British Burma in the New Century 1815-1918.' Journal of British Studies, 55 (4). pp. 850-852.

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Professor Stephen Keck seeks to locate Burma intellectually within the empire and to do the same for the empire in Burma not as a stage on the path to something else (like independence) but as an imaginary, what he calls “new century Burma” something worthy of examination in its own right. As this is an intellectual history, the main figures in Keck’s book are those who wrote about Burma during the period, such as travel writers, missionaries, satirists, and the group of writers who loved and lived in the country and are called by Keck “Burmaphiles” (18). British writers constructed their own imaginaries of the country. To capture these constructions of Burma, Keck draws upon Arjun Appadurai’s notion of scapes to mobilize the concept of Burmascape. British writers who tried to make sense of Burma combined images, narratives, and conceptual vocabulary that formed their own Burmascape, which Keck also understands as a modality of power. The Burmascape intersected with the gathering of official data to produce an “unofficial but officially informed perspective,” but leaving beyond its scope a genuine appreciation of the actual importance of the now fallen monarchy in the country, the importance of Buddhism, and the aspirations of the Burmese now entering schools (16). But whatever its limitations, Keck asserts, British Burma must be reckoned with; it was a homogenizing force that produced a modern Burma and to understand why Burma has emerged the way that it has, we need to be better acquainted with the writings that both narrated and documented this country for the empire and the world.

Item Type: Book Reviews
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
ISSN: 00219371
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2021 16:18

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