The Journal of Burma Studies, vol. 23 no. 2 (2019)

Figure 2: Front cover of the pirate edition of The Thirty-Seven Nats, from “Counting to 37:Sir Richard Carnac Temple and the Thirty-Eighth Nat” by Sally Bamford, this issue.

The three articles in the new issue of The Journal of Burma Studies offer a compelling picture of accounting: nats, coins, and people.

Editor’s Note
Jane M. Ferguson

Counting to 37: Sir Richard Carnac Temple and the Thirty-Eighth Nat
Sally Bamford

Burma’s nats have formed part of that country’s spiritual and material culture for centuries, and first came to the attention of the West via traveler and colonial memoirs. The most notable of these such accounts is undoubtedly Sir Richard Carnac Temple’s The Thirty-Seven Nats: A Phase of Spirit-Worship Prevailing in Burma, published in 1906 and still cited by scholars today.

This article argues that the reliance by Western (and some Burmese) authors on Temple’s book has led to several misconceptions concerning the nats. These include, for example, that the pantheon known in the West as “The Thirty-Seven Nats” is a royal pantheon constituted by Anawrahta in the 11th century, under the leadership of Thakya Min (Sakka), in order to enfold the nats into Buddhism. Yet primary sources, including Burmese court documents, paint a much fuller picture of the nats, detailing three separate pantheons of 37. Each pantheon contains very different types of nat, each of which played a specific role throughout Burma’s history.

Following a clarification of these pantheons, this paper draws on extant primary sources to suggest a different interpretation of the “Thirty-Seven Nats” and their role vis-à-vis Burma’s kings. The source material available to R.C. Temple is also considered, which reveals significant information which Temple overlooked when writing his book. This led, in turn, to wrongly identified illustrations included in his book, which obscured the identity of a “Thirty-Eighth Nat.” These errors have also had an impact on how one of the most prominent nats is depicted in more recent publications.

King Bodawpaya’s Effort at a Konbaung Coinage
Philip Hauret

In 1797 King Bodawpaya became the first Konbaung king to introduce a national coinage by issuing copper and silver coins minted in both Calcutta and Amarapura. A British envoy, Hiram Cox, delivered the Calcutta coins and additional minting equipment to Amarapura and witnessed first-hand the roll-out of the new monetary system. Deriding the effort as incompetent and avaricious, Cox’s account has served as the basis for all subsequent historical and numismatic treatments. This paper examines this effort in a new light, and with the support of additional evidence uncovered in the 20th century, paints a picture far less negative than British accounts. The kingdom’s efforts, arguably inadequate to the task, nonetheless demonstrated a certain degree of planning and logical action. And despite Cox’s characterizations, the new coinage was apparently based upon an existing system of monetary value, resulting in coinage that continued to circulate throughout most of the 19th century.

Thinking Through Heterogeneity: An Anthropological Look at Contemporary Myanmar
François Robinne

Anchored in an ethnic-state structure since the 1947 Panglong Agreement, ethnic politics and ethnic determinism in Burma have become imprescriptible in the eyes of various actors, especially ethnic and religious elites, the military junta, civilian authorities, civil society, academics and international bodies. Based on years of field surveys devoted to the study of multiethnic crossroads and the de facto landscapes of hybridity in the highlands of Burma, the anthropological perspective of this paper invites us to leave the identity trap. An essentialist notion of ethnicity is not only at the root of the country’s ongoing civil war, but also continues to dictate parliamentary politics in the country. This paper will also consider how the democratic transition is itself caught up in this identity trap.

The Journal of Burma Studies Vol 23, No. 1 (2019)

Featured in Caroline Ha Thuc's "Research as Strategy: Reactivating Mythologies and Building a Collective Memory in Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung's The Name (2008-)" this issue: Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung The Name (2008–). Detail: Portrait of Bo Cho. Multimedia installation. Image courtesy of the artists.
Featured in Caroline Ha Thuc’s “Research as Strategy: Reactivating Mythologies and Building a Collective Memory in Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung’s The Name (2008-)” this issue: Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung The Name (2008–). Detail: Portrait of Bo Cho. Multimedia installation. Image courtesy of the artists.

The new issue of The Journal of Burma Studies (JBS) promises a tour de force of ethnographic, historical, and artistic insight into religious practice and cultural
expression.

This issue marks the first in our new partnership with the Center for Burma Studies at Northern Illinois University. Find top articles from The Journal of Burma Studies‘ archive and enjoy the new issue today on Project MUSE.


Editor’s Note
By Jane M. Ferguson

Making Merit, Making Civil Society: Free Funeral Service Societies and Merit-Making in Contemporary Myanmar
By Mu-Lung Hsu

Thrice-Honored Sangharaja Saramedha (1801-1882): Arakan-Chittagong Buddhism across Colonial and Counter-Colonial Power
By D. Mitra Barua

Research as Strategy: Reactivating Mythologies and Building a Collective Memory in Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung’s The Name (2008-)
By Caroline Ha Thuc

Bottom-Up Explorations: Locating Rule of Law Intermediaries after Transition in Myanmar
By Kristina Simion

Smoke, No Fire 
By Richard M. Cooler

Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina by Gerard Sasges (review)
By Luke Corbin

Constitutionalism and Legal Change in Myanmar ed. by Andrew Harding (review)
By Elliot Prasse-Freeman

Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar under Censorship and in Transition by Ellen Wiles (review)
By Kenneth Wong

Journal of Burma Studies 23-1
The Journal of Burma Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1 (2019)

UH Press to publish The Journal of Burma Studies in partnership with the Northern Illinois University, Center for Burma Studies

The University of Hawai‘i Press will publish and distribute The Journal of Burma Studies, one of the only scholarly peer-reviewed journals that focus exclusively on Burma/Myanmar. This new partnership with the Center for Burma Studies at Northern Illinois University begins with volume 23, 2019. The complete content of the journal is available online in Project MUSE.

UH Press Interim Director and Publisher, Joel Cosseboom, said: “We are pleased to partner with the NIU Center for Burma Studies on this important and unique journal.”

Edited by Catherine Raymond from Northern Illinois University, Center for Burma Studies and Jane M. Ferguson from Australian National University, The Journal of Burma Studies seeks to publish the best scholarly research focused on Burma/Myanmar and its minority and diasporic cultures from a variety of disciplines, ranging from art history and religious studies, to economics and law.

Dr. Ferguson looks forward to collaborating with UH Press to launch innovative and engaging issues of The Journal of Burma Studies. “University of Hawai‘i Press has consistently produced some of the most exciting publications on Southeast Asia as well as Burma/Myanmar Studies, so I am delighted that JBS will now work with them,” she said.

The journal is jointly sponsored by the Burma Studies Group and the Center for Burma Studies at Northern Illinois University. Published since 1997, the journal draws together research and critical reflection on Burma/Myanmar from scholars across Asia, North America and Europe.

Content is available on the Project MUSE platform.

Subscribe at: https://uhpress.hawaii.edu/title/jbs/

Submit your manuscript at: https://jbs.scholasticahq.com/for-authors

The Journal of Burma Studies joins UH Press’s extensive list of Asian and Southeast Asian studies journals including: Asian Perspectives, Korean Studies, Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, Review of Japanese Culture and Society, and others.

About UH Press

 The University of Hawai‘i Press supports the mission of the university through the publication of books and journals of exceptional merit. It strives to advance knowledge through the dissemination of scholarship—new information, interpretations, methods of analysis—with a primary focus on Asian, Hawaiian, Pacific, Asian American and global studies. It also serves the public interest by providing high-quality books and resource materials of educational value on topics related to Hawai‘i’s people, culture, and natural environment. Through its publications the Press seeks to stimulate public debate and educate both within and outside the classroom.

About Northern Illinois University, Center for Burma Studies

 Founded in 1987, the Center collects and preserves information and artifacts of all kinds concerning the study of the peoples and cultures of Burma/Myanmar, and makes these materials broadly available for research and study.

The Center enjoys a unique relationship with the Burma Studies Foundation, which assures that all Burma/Myanmar-related items donated to the foundation will be offered to the center for inclusion and conservation within the university’s collections. Oversight by the foundation combines strong support of the center with lasting responsibility to the field of Burma/Myanmar studies.

The Center for Burma Studies is a non-political, non-degree granting, administrative and academic unit within Northern Illinois University. The Center has the following goals:

  • The maintenance and expansion of a comprehensive research library to sustain the field of Burma studies
  • The collection, care, and exhibition of the arts of Burma
  • The support and promotion of undergraduate and graduate teaching concerning Burma
  • The organization and hosting of self-supporting national and international conferences on Burma studies
  • The publication of relevant scholarship on Burma
  • The care and enhancement of archival resources such as photographs, music records, oral histories, personal papers, and field notes
  • The promotion of outreach activities to schools and communities
  • Encouraging the performance of Burmese arts
  • The securing of educational opportunities through scholarships, internships, and fellowships