With the Ethnography.com website's updated 'modern' look and my 'mysterious' long-term disappearance from America, you may be wondering about the site's header photos, and what the heck is going on over here? Maybe call this 'flash ethnography' mixed with ethnographic photography. Here are five short stories... ^ THIS IS THE CHURCH COURTYARD at the ethnographer's … Continue reading What does a Chicken, Drums, Whiskey, Gossip, and International Diplomacy have in common?
Miss Burma (2017) by Charmaine Craig is a historical novel that tells the story of Burma from the perspective of a Karen family that was part of Rangoon’s elite after World War II. The book describes the Karen perspective on mid-20th-century wars in Burma, beginning with the Japanese invasion in 1942 and continuing today. Resonating particularly … Continue reading Reading Myanmar—‘Miss Burma’ and the Liberal Conscience
Colonial Burma has a strange hold on the Anglo-American imagination—it is a remote and exotic place where the British were not very successful in holding sway. British authority was routinely challenged by people in the forests of Burma who, the British felt, did not understand the beneficent “reason” inherent to their colonial project. From a British … Continue reading Batman’s Butler Alfred Philosophizes about Colonial Violence in British Burma
The Joint Peace Fund, the group sponsoring the 2015 Ceasefire in Myanmar, sponsored a reception on International Peace Day at the Chatrium Hotel in September 2019. I was there because like much of Yangon’s NGO world, I know that the Joint Peace Fund administers a huge pot of foreign aid that funds the “peace process”. … Continue reading The Elephants, the Peace Process, and the Blindmen in a Myanmar Hotel Ballroom
Published August 29, 2019 in The Irrawaddy of Yangon, Myanmar. By TONY WATERS The International Donors are meeting frequently to discuss the 1 million Rohingya refugees sitting in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazaar. The strange assertion that “the refugees will go home to Rakhine soon voluntarily because we have a plan” is again being recycled; … Continue reading Insistence on Voluntary Rohingya Repatriation to Myanmar Lacks ‘Moral Imagination’
What is Ethnography? Often, people do not understand my work as an ‘ethnographer.’ Perhaps, they assume I am creating a life of luxury for myself and just sitting somewhere. Or, they will ask me, are you a writer for the news? Then I reply, no, I am not that kind of writer. Often, those kinds … Continue reading What is Ethnography? Ethnografia ni nini?
The writings of an important Thai writer & journalist are just beginning to surface in the English language. I feel confident enough to say that I am the first anthropologist & ethnographer indebted to 'Rong Wongsawan, because my mentor Dr. Tony Waters is conducting this translation work, with the help of his Thai students, and … Continue reading The New Face of Ethnography, from Tanzania to Thailand
Since returning to Kigoma, Tanzania on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in central Africa for my Fulbright research, I have been looking for two of my Congolese friends. I was told that they crossed the Lake, and returned to two of the cities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to live– to be together with … Continue reading Rumba is good, even through war, through Ebola
Life as an Insect Inside a Glass Jar: Language Learning Through Immersion (Sic Semper, Malinowski and the Tropical Beach...) What does it feel like to live as an insect inside a glass jar? The praying mantis was removed from its environment suddenly, and plopped into a clean, bright glass vessel, along with other things that … Continue reading Life as an Insect Inside a Glass Jar: Language Learning Through Immersion
When I first taught in Thailand in 2011, I sought Thai sociologists to help me figure out what was different from my American-style sociology. In California, I taught many years of Classical Social Theory, focused on Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, and wondered: what might Thai Classical Theory look like? The Thai sociologists I asked about … Continue reading Searching for Classical Social Theory in Thailand
By TONY WATERS 24 June 2019 (Reposted from The Irrawaddy of Yangon, Myanmar) Yangon’s INGOs are full of consultancy reports which offer “professional” opinions about conditions in Myanmar. NGOs, INGOS, and UN agencies investigate transitions regarding democracy, environment, federalism, ethnicity and, of course, gender. These are the subjects that donors are interested in—and thus willing to pay … Continue reading How to Read a WEIRD Evidence-Based Yangon Consultancy Report
Notes From the Liquor Store... Thought I was finished working here. But I remembered, I do like the liquor store. Been coming in and chatting with Norm at night. He's helping with my studies in Arabic philosophy. So I thought I'd give him a night off so he can run errands and cook dinner for … Continue reading A Liquor Store is like a Drive-Thru Cheers