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Charney, Michael W. (2023) The Shan in the History of the Irrawaddy Valley: Towards a Federal “National” History. In: Shan New Year 2118 2023 Academic Presentations, 9 December 2023, SOAS.

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My main point is that when we do Shan history we do Shan history but when we do Burmese history we do Burman history and this needs to change. This should be part of the current efforts to decolonise the academy. Decolonizing the academy promises to do much good in rectifying the imbalance in favour of the West in the creation of the main academic disciplines and the delivery of knowledge about the non-West. Control over knowledge as Said laid out vividly regarding the Near and Middle East is power that simultaneously limits the object just as it empowers the subject. The problem to be resolved is not uniform, however, throughout the non-West, colonization by the West is a common layer that can be identified across the board, but prior to this are layers of other states and other projects whose handiwork was not erased by the colonial state but, in influencing the colonial state, knowledge was inherited from them and filtered into the Western knowledge-building project. Historians usually deal with the lowland Burmese state as a Burman history and those who touch on ethnic minorities write their histories as ethnic and local, a perspective complemented by anthropological work that by its nature is often focused on local, community-specific studies. But what would a history of Burma that, to draw on Dipesh Chakrabarty, provincialises the Burmans and pays equal attention to other co-existing “ethnic” centres of historical, cultural, and religious development within Myanmar in a “federal” way look like? I am going to take a lead from Dipesh Chakrabarty here and suggest that we need to have a new history of Burma that provincializes the Burman spaces of Mandalay and Rangoon of the 19th and 20th centuries and adopts a multi- centred (not a multi-ethnic approach) to understand how “national” developments were fed and experienced throughout the country, Tachileik and Sittwe, two name just two centres, being just as much a subject of attention as Mandalay for example, without doing so to the degree of excluding non-urban areas from historical agency.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Paper)
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2023 14:41
Related URLs: https://www.soa ... l-presentations (Organisation URL)

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