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Myanmar: Ethnicity, Memory, and Identity (individual papers)

Chair:
Kirsten McConnachie
University of Oxford
kirsten.mcconnachie@lmh.ox.ac.uk

List of Papers:

  • Familial Relatedness and Pregnancy Caring Practices of Displaced Karen Women in a Refugee Camp, Northwestern Thailand
  • Becoming Christian Missionaries: Social Memories and Networks of Burmese Karen Youth at the Thailand-Burma Border
  • Are we refugees or Myanmarese? : A study of Arakanese Magh Tribe

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Paper 1: Familial Relatedness and Pregnancy Caring Practices of Displaced Karen Women in a Refugee Camp, Northwestern Thailand

Saw Keh Doe
Chiang Mai University
sawkehdoe1980@gmail.com

Pregnancy is universally considered a potential life-threatening event. As a result, most societies develop systems of knowledge, behavior, beliefs and practices which reflect dietary and behavioral precautions, ritual practices and the use of herbs, the aim being to ensure the well-being of both the mother and child. This issue becomes more critical in a displacement situation, as Karen displaced people find themselves living in an unfamiliar environment and in uncertain and insecure circumstances. The situation in the camp attracts many NGOs that work to promote and develop health, education, disability and other humanitarian activities. Hence, the Karen refugees’ displacement into the camp, with its modern health care services, might have been expected to lead to a replacement of their cultural practices and customs.
I explore the pregnancy caring practices of those displaced Karen women living in Thu Mweh refugee camp and describe how family members are connected and/or reconnected each other in order to transfer the knowledge, organize the ritual and provide moral and physical support during pregnancy, besides maintaining this relationship, I also try to understand how people create another kind of relatedness such as family-like relationship which has also played role on pregnancy caring practices for securing the uncertain situation especially in the context of displaced situation. The data was collected by using three techniques: participant observation, in-depth interview and life histories.

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Paper 2: Becoming Christian Missionaries: Social Memories and Networks of Burmese Karen Youth at the Thailand-Burma Border

Pattarada Rittang
Chiang Mai University
curitibanaauska@gmail.com

Post colonial time has left Burma with seeds of ethnic conflicts and civil war. Therefore, people migrated into neighboring countries like Thailand so authorities and responsible organizations have to set up nine refugee camps for providing humanitarian aids. The aids from INGOs develop Thu Mweh Khee refugee camp to have better facilities than other minor camps and become education centre in borderland.

Therefore, this research focuses on ethno-nationalist schooling in seminary college where dominate by an ethnic group called Skaw Karen who were exile by civil war. This college has to be changed to adapt into the regulations of refugee camp that influences by many actor as camp is Zone of Exception. On the one hand, the increasing of ethnic diversity as the condition of camp as exceptional zone is leading to a greater level of experience among Theological students.

Moreover, creating connectivity and networking during their studying such as participate in religious space and nationalism ceremony with people from various backgrounds and different sets of social memory have helped in creating new perceptions and ideas. As a result, Karen mission students are faced with complexities and contradictions within this displacement space, so their notions about serving God and Kawthoolei through ethnic nationalism activities, and by carrying out missionary work have been affected.

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Paper 3: Are we refugees or Myanmarese? : A study of Arakanese Magh Tribe

Debolina Sen
University of Calcutta
dsen24@gmail.com

The pirates who originated in the Arakan region of Burma are the Maghs. They were the most feared pirates of the Bay of Bengal basin.They preferred themselves to be called as Marmas which means Burmese. They are an Arakanese speaking population and regard Myanmar as their cultural life. But with the turn of the century and the clearing of forests in order to accommodate growing population, this ethnic group has experienced oppression from the encroaching settlers. This has compelled them to flee and seek refuge in neighboring Chittagong hills and borders of India. But recent insurgencies have shown their critical existence. This paper aims at finding out what exactly do these Myanmarese refugees feel about their national identity. The paper questions this particular ethnic group’s identity and questions their identity crisis and addresses their future prospects regarding nationality.

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