Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Books on Myanmar

These are recent additions to our comprehensive stock of books on Myanmar:

Myanmar's Transition: Openings, Obstacles and Opportunities edited by Nick Cheesman; M. Skidmore and T. Wilson. With the world watching closely, Myanmar began a process of political, administrative and institutional transition from 30 January 2011. The 2011 Myanmar/Burma update conference considered the openings offered by these political changes and media reforms and the potential opportunities for international assistance. Obstacles covered include impediments to the rule of law, the continuation of human rights abuses, the impunity of the Army, and the failure to end ethnic insurgency.

Burma: Nation at the Crossroads by Benedict Rogers. This up to date and forcefully written account of Burma today is written by a senior journalist who in the last 15 years has often been in the country. Interviews and a wide range of contacts highlight some of the hideous cruelty and oppression in the recent history of Burma's people and also some tentative signs of possible changes in recent official policy. The government 's largely inhumane handling of the 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster and the views of Aung San Suu Kyi are discussed. The future is viewed with a measure of hope for change from Thein Sein's promise of some reform. With glossary, bibliography, list of concerned organisations, and index.

Free Burma: Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability by John G. Dale.  When the military's ruling party violently quashed Burma's pro-democracy movement, diplomatic condemnation quickly followed-to little effect. But when Burma's activists began linking the movement to others around the world, the result was dramatically different. This book is the first to explain how Burma's pro-democracy movement became a transnational social movement for human rights. Through the experience of the Free Burma movement, John G. Dale demonstrates how social movements create and appropriate legal mechanisms for generating new transnational political opportunities. He presents three corporate accountability campaigns waged by the Free Burma movement. The cases focus on the legislation of "Free Burma" laws in local governments throughout the United States; the effort to force the state of California to de-charter Unocal Oil Corporation for its flagrant abuse of human rights; and the first-ever use of the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act to sue a corporation in a U.S. court for human rights abuses committed abroad. Dale's work also raises the issue of how foreign policies of so-called constructive engagement actually pose a threat to the hope of Burma's activists-and others worldwide-for more democratic economic development.

Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma by Chie Ikeya. Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma presents the first study of one of the most prevalent and critical topics of public discourse in colonial Burma: the woman of the khit kala - "the woman of the times"- who burst onto the covers and pages of novels, newspapers, and advertisements in the 1920s. Educated and politicized, earner and consumer, "Burmese" and "Westernized" she embodied the possibilities and challenges of the modern era, as well as the hopes and fears it evoked. In Refiguring Women, Chie Ikeya interrogates what these shifting and competing images of the feminine reveal about the experience of modernity in colonial Burma. She marshals a wide range of hitherto unexamined Burmese language sources to analyze both the discursive figurations of the woman of the khit kala and the choices and actions of actual women who-whether pursuing higher education, becoming political, or adopting new clothes and hairstyles-unsettled existing norms and contributed to making the woman of the khit kala the privileged idiom for debating colonialism, modernization, and nationalism. The first book-length social history of Burma to utilize gender as a category of sustained analysis, Refiguring Women challenges the reigning nationalist and anti-colonial historical narratives of a conceptually and institutionally monolithic colonial modernity that made inevitable the rise of ethnonationalism and xenophobia in Burma. The study demonstrates the irreducible heterogeneity of the colonial encounter and draws attention to the conjoint development of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. Ikeya illuminates the important roles that Burmese men and women played as cultural brokers and agents of modernity. She shows how their complex engagement with social reform, feminism, anti-colonialism, media, and consumerism rearticulated the boundaries of belonging and foreignness in religious, racial, and ethnic terms.

Politics of Silence: Myanmar's NGOs’ Ethnic, Religious and Political Agenda by Lois Desaine. This IRASEC study of NGOs in Myanmar is based on primary sources mainly, contacts and interviews in 2010 and 2011. Part 1 explores religious and ethnic dimensions of Myanmar NGOs including the emergence of an active Myanmar civil society and the 2008 impact of cyclone Nargis. Part 2 looks at the power and legitimacy of NGOs and their activities at higher, central and local levels. After two case studies in Kachin State, perceptions of the NGOs in the ongoing period of political transition are discussed. Their permanent presence on the Myanmar scene is affirmed. 

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