Southeast Asia Seminar Series
Lecture in the Arts, Histories, Literatures, and Religions of Burma
“Transcultural Intimacies and Infidelities Under Colonial Rule: The History of Contesting Intermarriage, Religion, Race, and Nation in Burma (Myanmar)”
Chie Ikeya (Rutgers University)
Thursday, October 24, 2013
2:00 – 4.00 pm
Department for the Study of Religion
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 318
170 St. George Street
The unyielding sectarian violence, communal tensions, and the recent petition for a controversial ‘national race protection law’ restricting interfaith marriages between Buddhist women and non-Buddhist men have drawn attention to the history of contestations of race, religion, and nation in Burma (Myanmar). Almost a century ago, prominent Buddhist monks and women’s organizations similarly campaigned for legislative reforms that would ‘protect’ Burmese women in intermarriages. Then, as now, unions between Buddhist women and Muslim men were condemned in the name of religion and race, and the image of the female infidel oppressed by ‘others’ was put into the service of nationalist, masculinist politics. Historians have seldom questioned this long-standing characterization of the Muslim-Buddhist intermarriage as a singularly pernicious form of conjugality, and even fewer have felt compelled to explore how it in fact compared with other colonial-era forms of intermarriage: Hindu-Buddhist, Christian-Buddhist, Sino-Burmese, Anglo-Burmese, and Japanese-Burmese. Through an examination of 19th and 20th century archival and literary sources, this talk offers a comparative analysis of these intimate relations that contested imperialist and nationalist projects of disciplining difference, desire, and intimacy. It illuminates the richly textured social lives of transcultural families in colonial Burma and suggests important commonalities in the way that affective ties, family affairs, and communal identities were managed and confronted.
This talk is part of a larger project on intra-Asian conjugalities, domesticities, friendships, and collaborations in colonial Burma and Southeast Asia that challenges the primacy of the white male colonizer-‘native’ woman coupling in the prevailing literature on the ‘tense and tender ties’ of empire. It argues for consideration of a fuller range of intimate encounters that characterized the age of global empire in interrogating the significance and role that religion, race, and culture had in normalizing and legitimating certain forms of transcultural affection while deeming others illegitimate.
Chie Ikeya, who holds a PhD from Cornell University and has worked as an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University since 2012, is a historian of Southeast Asia with interests in the related fields of Asian studies, postcolonial studies, and feminist race, gender, and sexuality studies. Her first book Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma (University of Hawai’i Press, 2011) concerned colonial politics, gender and race relations, social reforms, anticolonialism, media, and consumerism in twentieth century Burma.
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