SURROUND SOUND COPYRIGHT 2011
Background photo courtesy of Wasitthee Chaiyakan
Religious communalism is a hugely important part of the political landscape of Burma/Myanmar today. I examined the roots of communalism in western Burma, the region of Arakan or Rakhaing, from the 15th to the 19th centuries in my dissertation defended at the University of Michigan in 1999. The dissertation focused largely on the Therava Buddhist community but included substantial attention to the emergence of the Muslim community there as well. At the time, I viewed the politicization of both communities as due to a combination of the disappearance of the Burmese court and the transformation of village headmen to agents of the colonial state on the one hand and competition on the rice frontier on the other. In research since, I have located a more pro-active role played by Buddhist monks from the Irrawaddy Valley who entered Arakan during the period of Burmese rule (1784/5-1824/5) and after, who brought a vision of a singular Burma/Myanmar and encouraged a Yakhaing identity that was less tolerant and inclusive than the Rakhaing identity had been in the past.
I gave a talk on Rakhaing, Rohingya, and religious communalism in the region at the Rohingya workshop at Oxford on 11 May 2016. Click the photo to see a youtube video of the talk.
Q&A session after panel presentations at Rohingya Workshop at Oxford on 11 May 2016. Click the photo above for the youtube video.