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’
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
I wrote a blog about the city of Yangon last month. I visited there in February, and quite liked the city. It is a vibrant city, busy, without being threatening. I met some teachers there too whose company I really enjoyed, as well as a number of other people. We talked about teaching, complained about … Continue reading College Internships and Fears of Hanging
Recently I ran across a Western diplomat, this one from an embassy in Southeast Asia. I dream of having intellectual conversations with such people. After all they hold the levers of governmental power, particularly the big aid budgets in Myanmar, Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, the conversations are usually one sided. … Continue reading George Orwell and the Modern Yangon INGO Worker
Here is a link to a book with a real original thought! The Lost Ethnographies. Most projects of course never get anywhere. For example last month I wrote a brief blog about my trip to Yangon, and why I though it seemed like an interesting and engaging city. I promised a follow-up blog about its … Continue reading Lost Ethnographies, and other musings
Christina says I should write about my trip to Yangon (Myanmar/Burma) these last few days, as it is a city unfamiliar to the readers of Ethnography.com. Her impressions, and those of our readers are probably in the context of the international news about Myanmar which focused last year on the Rohingya refugee crisis in which … Continue reading Thinking about Yangon: Normalcy or Conflict?
Reposted from The Irrawaddy, February 11, 2019 By TONY WATERS In 2017 and 2018, between 600,000 and 800,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar following attacks and clearance operations targeting their villages and coordinated by the Myanmar military. The result is the world’s largest refugee camp, Kutupalong, situated in a low-lying corner of Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh. The … Continue reading The Fortunate Failure of ‘Voluntary Repatriation’ For Rohingya Refugees
James C. Scott is one of the major social science writers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His first book Moral Economy of the Peasant published in 1976, studied Vietnamese peasants, and how they resisted social change while being rooted in a different “moral economy.” In subsequent decades he expanded his work to … Continue reading Who Influneces American Foreign Policy in Burma More? James C. Scott or John Rambo?
Hey, I published a book last October, Max Weber and the Problem of Modern Discipline. It is about Max Weber’s view of authority, and why so many of us obey. What follows is a lightly edited version of the introductory chapter where I have a bit of fun comparing subsistence peasants to well-paid UN bureaucrats.. … Continue reading Discipline and Modern Society: Something about Max Weber and Well-Paid Development Bureaucrats!