Repossessing Shanland: Myanmar, Thailand, and a Nation-State Deferred
Repossessing Shanland: Myanmar, Thailand, and a Nation-State Deferred, with Jane M. Ferguson Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, Australian National University
Date & Time: Wednesday, November 3, 2021, 4:00 pm PDT (1:00 pm HST)
Around five million people across Southeast Asia identify as Shan. Though the Shan people were promised an independent state in the 1947 Union of Burma Constitution, successive military governments blocked their liberation. From 1958 onward, insurgency movements, including the Shan United Revolutionary Army, have fought for independence from Myanmar. Refugees numbering in the hundreds of thousands fled to Thailand to escape the conflict, despite struggling against oppressive citizenship laws there. Several decades of continuous rebellion have created a vacuum in which literati and politicians have constructed a virtual Shanland that lives on in popular media, rock music, and Buddhist ritual.
Based on long-term ethnography across three horizons and three vernaculars, Jane M. Ferguson details the origins of these movements and tells the story of the Shan in their own voices. She shows how they have forged a homeland and identity during great upheaval by using state building as an ongoing project of resistance, resilience, and accommodation within both countries. In avoiding a good/bad moral binary and illuminating cultural complexities, Repossessing Shanland offers a fresh perspective on identity creation, transformation, and how people understand and experience borderlands today.
Jane M. Ferguson teaches Anthropology and Southeast Asian history at the Australian National University. She has carried out ethnographic research in both urban and uplands Southeast Asia, as well as transnational aviation spaces. Her eclectic publications record includes work on issues of ethnic insurgency, bicycle messengers, historical understandings of race and sovereignty, musical genres, airline cultures, and the social history of Burmese cinema. She is the Editor of The Journal of Burma Studies.