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Talking Back to white* Researchers in Burma Studies (Conference Presentation)

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

We gave the presentation of our co-authored paper Talking Back to white Researchers in Burma Studies at the 20th International Graduate Student Conference at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa on Feb 12 2021. Our paper abstract was awarded the Outstanding Abstract award. Full paper is to be published soon.

Talking Back to white Researchers in Burma Studies

Chu May Paing & Than Toe Aung


This paper challenges the whiteness and ongoing epistemological colonization in the circles of Burma studies. We question the post-colonial narratives about Burma. As two native researchers born and raised in Burma and now being trained in Western academia (anthropology and sociology), we offer empirical examples of personal encounters with colonial research processes and theorize five specific colonial tropes in research that may extend beyond the Burma studies circles but in the studies of the Global South more broadly. With this paper, we call for the decolonization of Burma studies–to center the Burmese epistemology in research.

*We intentionally choose to de-capitalize the word "white" as a political stance against whiteness in academia and in social life.

Cite as: Chu May Paing, & Than Toe Aung. (2021). Talking Back to white Researchers in Burma Studies. Conference Presentation. International Graduate Student Conference. University of Hawai'i at Manoa. February 12.

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Racism being given an "intellectual" veneer. Unfortunately academia has allowed the term "whiteness", which intentionally targets a broad group of people based on a census designation, for "colonial", which refers instead to a bundle of economic and social processes. The "scholars" responsible for this drivel should be expelled from the academic programs that are hosting them.



A lot of truth here, since the 90s i have heard complains from the grounds similar to theses in countries of Southeast Asia, hope to read the details of your research and that they do not follow the methods established by the culture you are privilege to be in and criticising. Some of your articulations resembled those coming from the prevalent modernist trajectory and colonists' practices. e.g. author centricity, elitist/top-down interpretations,.... Even W. Mignolo convincing decolonisation texts have yet to formulate affective ethical and holistic research processes...Just shouting and pointing out is a beginning, wish you success in your research.. Anthropology and Sociology, as forms of western knowledge and on their own are not able to deal with society and…



I agree with everything in here. Some of the things you criticise are some of the things I don't like about the field the most. The gatekeeper mental complex is a BIG problem. Two things, increasingly, the degree of the problem is worse than for other parts of SEA, because the foreign scholars Myanmar does attract often seem to be those needing a "cause" more than other countries. Second, Myanmar scholars need to get around white gatekeeping scholars and communicate directly with scholars elsewhere as much as possible. It's hard to do without enough money available for conference travel, project funding. What we don't talk enough about though is the focus of our research being at fault. So much research…

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