Eyes and Ears on Myanmar

Three cheers for Aung San Suu Kyi!!! The leader of the National Democratic League of Myanmar has been released from her 15 year detention.

Since the beginning of her detention in 1989, Suu Kyi’s popularity abroad has brought incessant attention both to her and her people’s predicament. Suu Kyi also states that while her release is not a triumph of democracy, she is ready to resume her position leader of the NDL, and there is no doubt supporters and activists abroad will lend their unfaltering attention to her efforts.

I first learned about Myanmar’s political and economic landscape when I was a freshman in college. Naturally, I learned about Aung San Suu Kyi and her fight against the Junta. After that moment, I also started noticing how much attention this oppressed regime in Southeast Asia was receiving from scholars, artists and activists.

Here are some valuable resources, I have gathered throughout the years, that will satisfy anybody’s curiosity about Myanmar.

Cultural anthropologist, Monique Skidmore, has compiled all of her field research on the political and social landscape of the Burmese regime. Her book, “Karaoke Fascism,” explains how the military regime manipulates the physical urban landscape of Yangon (formerly Rangoon) to instill fear in its people.

A film to help accompany this valuable account, is “Burma VJ“; a documentary of a courageous journalist who uses digital recording and the internet to shed light on the struggles of the Burmese people. This documentary aired on HBO and unfortunately, the Junta have discovered the narrator of this documentary. According to the film, he escaped Myanmar shortly after the documentary aired in America.

Visual artists have also been inspired by Suu Kyi’s story.

The newest branch of the Smithsonian Museum, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, is home to the works of several visual artists from the Himalayan region. On the third or fourth floor of this museum, an artist has adapted a portrait of Suu Kyi and incorporated her image in a mystical and colorful surrounding- one that is suppose to dress her like a Buddhist goddess.  The museum also includes neo-classical and contemporary pieces that speak about the Burmese region.

I want to conclude my “show-and-tell” blog of resources with an ethnographic study on the traditional and modern musical and cultural landscape of Myanmar.

In the article, “Innovation in the Guise of Tradition: Music among the Chin Population of Indianapolis, USA,” ethnomusicologist – who was also as a professor of mine in college – Heather Maclachlan, interviews a young Burmese couple in Chicago.

This couple in their mid- 30’s share their wedding videos, accounts of cultural musical activities and traditional musical instruments. Maclachlan’s artcile compares traditional Chin music and American country music; bringing the foreign topic of Chin music closer to the American reader and music history student.

While there are a ton of resources that talk about Burmese culture, history, people and the social, political and economic repression, these are just a few I know.

Since my introductory lesson on Myanmar and the struggle for democracy in the dictatorship, I not only have an interest in Myanmar, but little bits of this country seem to find me. I felt a need to blog about this interest and I couldn’t have picked a better occasion. Suu Kyi- a model of hope for a democratic regime- walks among her people again.


2 responses to “Eyes and Ears on Myanmar

  1. Oh, yes,the story of Aung San Suu Kyi is so sad and touched. I guess you must have heard the “Unplayed Piano”.

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