Burma in South Asia, South Asia in Burma

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Friday, April 20th, 2018

Friday, April 20, 20184:00PM - 6:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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Burma, or Myanmar as it was renamed in 1989, is largely ignored within the discipline of South Asian studies despite its cultural, religious, economic, and strategic significance for the wider worlds of Asia. Colonial scholarship on Burma, like nineteenth and early twentieth century European interest in Southeast Asia more broadly, with its strong Indological orientation, included Burma within the larger picture of India. With the demise of orientalist India, Burma found its new home in Cold War Southeast Asia, and Burma’s historical and contemporary affiliations with the South Asia that replaced British India seem to have been largely lost in the transfer. The re-reading of both South and Southeast Asia within a globalized, Indian Ocean vision of Asia should allow for a critical assessment of what was lost in a creation of a South Asia that is still largely without Burma and what could be gained by questioning the premises for such locations and relocations. This roundtable brings together specialists working on a range of issues in Burmese studies from the premodern period up to the present day, with a focus on Burma’s relationship to the discipline of South Asian studies. The goal of this roundtable is not to ‘reclaim’ Burma from the field of Southeast Asian studies, nor to essentialize South Asia as a unitary umbrella into which Burma can be neatly slotted, but rather to discuss how a Burma-sited scholarly approach can problematize the neat compartmentalization of Asia into predetermined geographical categories and how a projected mobility of Burma-related research, which such a problematization may facilitate, may open new perspectives of inquiry.


Professor Christoph Emmrich (University of Toronto):
Christoph Emmrich (PhD Heidelberg 2004) is Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto and Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies at the Asian Institute. He works on Nepalese and Burmese Buddhist and South Indian Jain ritual and literature, engages with Newar, Burman, Mon, and Tamil ritual specialists, literati, and girl children, and is interested in questions of childhood, gender, time, and memory.

Dr. Joseph McQuade (University of Toronto):
Joseph McQuade (PhD Cambridge, 2017) is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Centre for South Asian Studies and an Affiliate Researcher at the Canadian Network for Terrorism, Security and Society. His research focuses on genealogies of political violence and counter-terrorism legislation in twentieth century India and Burma.

Professor Sana Aiyar (Massachusetts Institute of Technology):
Sana Aiyar is a historian of modern South Asia. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2009 and held an Andrew Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in 2009-10. From 2010 to 2013 she was Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Her broad research and teaching interests lie in the regional and transnational history of South Asia and South Asian diasporas, with a particular focus on colonial and postcolonial politics and society in the Indian Ocean.
Her first book, Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora (Harvard University Press, 2015), explores the interracial and extraterritorial diasporic political consciousness of South Asians in Kenya from c. 1895 to 1968 who mediated constructions of racial and national identity across the Indian Ocean. Her research has appeared in several journals including the American Historical Review, AFRICA: Journal of the International African Institute, and Modern Asian Studies. Professor Aiyar is currently working on two projects. One is a study of the everyday encounters of African soldiers and South Asian civilians during the Second World War when over a hundred thousand military recruits from East and West Africa were stationed in India and Burma. The second, “India’s First Partition”, is an examination of migration, religious and ethnic politics, nationalism, and anticolonial activism across India and Burma in the 1930s.

Professor Thibaut D’Hubert (University of Chicago):
Thibaut d’Hubert is assistant professor in the department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC) at the University of Chicago. He published several articles in various periodicals and collective volumes, and contributed entries on Bengal for Brill’s Encyclopedia of Islam, THREE. In his recently published book titled In the Shade of the Golden Palace: Ālāol and Middle Bengali Poetics in Arakan (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), d’Hubert studies the encounter of Persian, Sanskrit, and vernacular poetics in the courtly milieu of the kingdom of Arakan (Bangladesh/Myanmar).

Professor Patrick Pranke (University of Louisville):
Patrick Pranke is associate professor of Religion in Comparative Humanities at the University of Louisville. His area of specialization is Theravada Buddhism with a focus on Burmese monastic history and Burmese popular religion. He has also conducted research in North India on vernacular Hinduism and Buddhism in the Indian imagination.


Mayumi Yamaguchi


Thibaut d'Hubert
Assistant Professor, Bengali language and Bengal studies, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago

Christoph Emmrich
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies

Joseph McQuade
Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies

Sana Aiyar
Associate Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Patrick Pranke
Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Humanities, University of Louisville

Main Sponsor

Centre for South Asian Studies


Centre for Southeast Asian Studies

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