SURROUND SOUND COPYRIGHT 2011
Background photo courtesy of Wasitthee Chaiyakan
Literati, plural, from the Latin literatus, refers to literary people, people educated in texts, writers and readers, etc. Although used widely in the West, its use in Asian Studies has tended to be monopolised by East Asianists and Vietnam historians. This is unfortunate, as the word has effective application in other parts of Southeast Asia as well. I have used it to refer to members of textual communities, a concept developed by Anne Blackburn that I drew upon for my own concept of a regional monastic community in Burma. I found it particularly useful because it cast a wider net than the more circumspect term monastics. I found that members of formal monastics, monks, and lay learned people formed together a textual community in the Lower Chindwin. The main point of my book Powerful Learning (2006) is that this understanding of an overlapping textual remit helps to explain the collateral rise of monastics and lay people from the Lower Chindwin to important positions in the Konbaung court and why their Reformation was both religious and proto-secular-intellectual, rather than simply monastic alone.