Monday, June 29, 2009

Books on Myanmar

Here are four books looking at different facets of the enigmatic Myanmar:

  • Early Landscapes Of Myanmar by Elizabeth Moore. This book describes the emergence of the Buddhist landscapes of Myanmar. The authoritative text is framed by the artefacts, sites and ecology of Upper and Lower Myanmar, with coverage of the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze-iron chiefdoms that preceded Hindu-Buddhist walled polities of the first millennium AD. Views and descriptions of sites, many not published in English before, include Letpanchibaw, Htaukmagon-Moegyobyin, Badigon, Tagaung, Halin, Sriksetra, Thaton and Dawei. The author's extensive fieldwork with Myanmar academics over the last decade brings an original perspective on the catalysts that structure landscape interaction, enabling expansion of agriculture, resource utilisation and international trade networks.
  • Perfect Hostage: Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma And The Generals by Justin Wintle. Since 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi has steadfastly opposed Burma's brutal military regime. But her leadership of the Burmese democracy movement and her ardent advocacy of human rights have landed her in desperate trouble. This is one of the better biography of Aung San Suu Kyi. It asks searching questions along the way. Her martyred father General Aung San led Burma to independence from the British. But is his legacy as hero really vouchsafed? And is Aung San Suu Kyi's insistence on non-violence really the best way to counter a junta incapable of acting in good faith? By including her father's story, and vitally, the story of the Burmese people at large, Justin Wintle lays bare the ambiguities which nourish a tragedy that is national as well as personal.
  • Return To The Irrawaddy by Frank Kingdon-Ward. Frank Kingdon-Ward's 1953 expedition to northern Burma would be his last. He died two years after his notes were published in 1956. Rich in description of the unique flora, fauna and tribal customs of this still little-known region, his account covers not only the magnificent rhododendrons and other tropical floral rarities that were the object of his travels, but also the customs of the various tribal groups encountered, the use of plants in local medical practice, the natural occurrence of tea varieties in the region and much more. This 2007 reissue makes available once more a last look at a spectacular and unspoiled corner of Burma, which since then has been inaccessible and largely devastated by protracted civil war.
  • The State In Myanmar by Robert Taylor. The State in Myanmar is a totally revised and expanded and updated version of The State in Burma (1987), with additional chapters covering the last 20 years of Myanmar's political history. It attempts to explain the country's current politics in the light of the historical evolution of state-society relations in Myanmar since the pre-colonial kings, through the colonial era to the current, and third, post-colonial regime in this strategically important and little studied Southeast Asian nation. The book explains the dramatic and unpredicted collapse of the previous socialist regime and the attempts by new and old political forces to wrest control of the state from a revitalised and increasingly confident military government. Myanmar's state-builders have applied varying ideas in their attempts to fashion a stable political order in an often fractious and far from unified nation and The State in Myanmar places those experiences in comparative perspective.

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