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Background photo courtesy of Wasitthee Chaiyakan

I began research on state formation and warfare in Arakan in 1991, leading to my M.A. thesis on the Arakanese Kingdom in the Bay of Bengal, defended in 1993. I then turned to state formation and Buddhist (and to a lesser extent, Muslim) religious community formation, leading to a PhD thesis on religious communalism in early modern Arakan, defended in 1999. In between, I published articles on the kingdom and its history, including my first published article in 1994 in the Journal of Asian History, articles in the Journal of Burma Studies and the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. These articles and the dissertation made extensive use of Arakanese and Burmese unpublished and published chronicles as well as a range of Iberian accounts.


At the time I was writing, no one had produced a major study of Arakan in the West since the late Pamela Gutman's thesis, on art history, in 1971. My work pioneered the history of the region in English and you can see its imprint in the work of other scholars  today who have continued to give life to the paradigms, terminologies, and historiographical arguments of my work from the 1990s.


Although my PhD thesis is now sixteen years old, the study still remains useful to understanding some of the core problems facing Myanmar society today as well as problems of religious communalism in other societies. I write about Irrawaddyization, the reimagination of local cultures and peoples within Myanmar, in a 2002 chapter in an edited volume (which would evolve into my take on a new  notion of Burman-ness, in my 2006 book, Powerful Learning).


Although I moved increasingly towards the study of Burmese national affairs in the years that followed, I retained a deep love and respect for the Arakan region and its people, the Rohingya and the Rakhaing, and kept being pulled back. One reason for this is that Arakan's issues have become not only Burma's issues, but also the world's issues.


I am in the process of revising my 1999 dissertation for publication. In the course of this work, I was invited to speak alongside many other Rohingya, Burman, and Western speakers at a webcast event on the Rohingya genocide occurring in Western Myanmar today, held at Wolfson College in Oxford, organised by Dr. Zarni. It was a very nice event, however much devoted to a tragic topic, and a nice contrast to the drum-beating, genocidal rantings that the Aung San Suu Kyi government seems hesitant to condemn as unacceptable political behavior.

Arakan and its People, the Rohingya and the Rakhaing, both Migrant Communities

Charney 1999 Where Jambudipa annd Islamdom Converged Religious Change and the Emergence of Buddhist Communalism in Early Modern Arakan - Rakhine, Burma, Myanmar, Theravada, Rohingya, Islam

1999 PhD Dissertation

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1993 MA Thesis

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1998 JBS article

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1998 JESHO article


2000 Article JAH


1994 article .-- no link

Delivering talk, "State and Society in Arakan since the Fourteenth Century: From Inclusion to Polarisation and Exclusion" at Wolfson College at Oxford as part of the workshop, Myanmar's Democratic Transition: What does that Mean for the Persecuted Rohingya? (11 May 2016). To watch this talk, click the photo for the link to the youtube video.

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“Theories and Historiography of the Religious Basis of Ethnonyms in Rakhaing (Arakan), Myanmar (Burma)”Paper originally presented at the Workshop, “The Forgotten Kingdom of Arakan: A Public Seminar on the People of Present Day Arakan State of Myanmar,” 23 November 2005, First Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand, listed under the title of “Buddhism

in Arakan: Theories and Historiography of the Religious Basis of Ethnonyms”