Hidden Words Hidden Worlds

A review by T. F. Rhoden of Hidden Words Hidden Worlds: Contemporary Short Stories from Myanmar, edited by Lucas Stewart and Alfred Birnbaum.

The crisis of recent months between the majority Buddhist Burmese and minority Islamic group calling themselves Rohingya serves as a reminder that Myanmar (Burma) is not a unified country in the sense of one nation, one state. The central government’s overreaction to an increase in Islamic radicalization in some rural areas by the brutal expulsion of 600,000-plus souls across the border into Bangladesh—though violent and tragic—should not be mistaken as unique in Myanmar’s history.

Stretching back at least seventy years to Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the various conflicts between the majority ethnic Burman along the central Irrawaddy valley down to the delta and the hundred or so different ethnolinguistic groups that populate the republic’s borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand attest even more vividly to disunity. The response to the Rohingya crisis is not without precedent. Wave the compass in the direction of northeast Myanmar and another ferocious struggle comes into purview between the central government and the Kachin peoples. Despite valid steps toward democratization—maybe less valid toward political liberalization—these types of communal conflicts have never not been an empirical reality for independent Myanmar. This cruel misalignment between majority-versus-minority aspiration is well documented both inside and outside Myanmar.

Less well documented are those perspectives that often never make their presence felt outside the smaller linguistic communities in Myanmar. The literary anthology Hidden Words Hidden Worlds: Contemporary Short Stories from Myanmar, edited by Lucas Stewart and Alfred Birnbaum, is a fascinating reversal to the usual absence of non-Burman viewpoints. The short stories gathered here are an eclectic mix by fourteen different authors. The writers are… [click here to continue to read full text]

hidden words hidden worlds

*Review of edited book by Lucas Stewart and Alfred Birnbaum originally published in Asian Review of Books by T. F. Rhoden; photo image credit of Rakhine Hills for this re-post goes to the talented DG-Photography via a post by Nada Haensel in Destinations Magazine. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Karen Language Phrasebook: Basics of Sgaw Dialect

A new book for a new year!

Karen Language Phrasebook: Basics of the Sgaw Dialect can be purchased through normal book distributors, including Amazon or directly from White Lotus Press.

Description

Comprehensive guide to the basics of Sgaw dialect of Karen language. Learn key phrases and words to use with any Karen companion, whether they live in Myanmar, Thailand, or wherever in the world. Phrasebook is for more than just learning to survive in a Karen-speaking environment. The goal is also to help you make new friends!

Chapters include: Preface; Acknowledgements; 1) Intro; 2) Basics; 3) Saying Hello; 4) Personal Info; 5) Getting Around; 6) Tea Shop Dining; 7) Staying the Night; 8) Shopping; and 9) Health Bibliography.

Paperback: 126 pages
Publisher: White Lotus Press (2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 974849599X
ISBN-13: 978-9748495996
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 7.7 ounces

Karen Language Phrasebook (big)

Karen back

*Original book copyright held by T. F. Rhoden; photo credit to this blog post goes to Khin Maung Kyaw. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Being a Boren: No Word for ‘Police’ in Karen

Learning the Sgaw dialect of the Karen language over the 2014–15 school year on a Boren Fellowship grant along the Thailand-Myanmar border has been a great experience for many different reasons. I wish to summarize one experience here.

I knew that there would be various challenges to learning a language that is not sponsored by a national state. What I did not expect was how much this non-state aspect of language learning would affect both the way one goes about foreign language acquisition and my own thoughts on the idea of the state itself. As someone undergoing training in an Anglo-American tradition of political science, our academic subject matter, in one way or another, is almost always about the state—that is, government, the people that are ruled by government, and all the multifarious relationships and bases of power that constitute a polity. There are more complicated ways to discuss this thing we call a state, but for here I want to focus on one challenge I stumbled across to all of this. Studying and living in a language community of around two million, which stretches over frontiers of various sorts—national, linguistic, economic, geographic, others—has provided me with more than a few opportunities of epiphanic, if perhaps naïve, clarity that otherwise would have been unavailable if one had remained stateside.

One of the more memorable Zen-like moments came as we were going over the Karen words for different professions.

My vocabulary list, created by some hapless Baptist missionary from the middle of the last century, had… [click here to continue to read full text]

*Originally published in The Mandala: Newsletter of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at NIU by T. F. Rhoden; photo credit goes to Beata. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. white-compass-rose-th

A Teacher’s Letters from the Thai-Burma Border

Thomas Rhoden has published a book of letters called Burmese Refugees: Letters from the Thai-Burma Border.

The American teacher spent a year in refugee camps in the Mae Sot area in one of ten camps dotted along the border. Thomas decided to give his students an assignment one afternoon but he was not prepared for what came back.

The result is a collection of stories that captures the lives of the refugees living on that border, where some 150,000 Burmese asylum seekers are waiting for a new home. Thomas says refugees there are closely monitoring news about Australia’s government’s refugee policies.

Presenter: Adelaine Ng

Speaker: Thomas Rhoden, editor of Burmese Refugees: Letters from the Thai-Burma Border.

*Original talk can be found on Radio Australia; photo credit via Virgina W. Mason, Maruesrite B. Hunsiker, and Maggie Smith at National Geographic Magazine. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Burmese Refugees: Letters from the Thai-Burma Border

New publication by Rhoden brothers!

DL Press presents the edited collection Burmese Refugees: Letters from the Thai-Burma Border. Book is available on Kindle, from normal book distributors, and online at Amazon.

Description

The misrule of the Burmese military junta continues to be the main catalyst of refugees in Southeast Asia today. In this collection of letters, learn about the true stories of people who have fled from that regime. All of the accounts are written by the refugees themselves and explain how they became asylum seekers, what life is like in the camps, and what they envision for their future. These stories document persons from the 8888 generation, the 2007 Saffron Revolution, and various ethnic struggles. This book contains the narratives of thirty diverse individuals – all of them united by the simple desire to have a more representative government in their homeland.

Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Digital Lycanthrope Press (2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615471072
ISBN-13: 978-0615471075
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces

BR Letters

*Original copyright for book and ebook held by T. F. Rhoden and T. L. S. Rhoden; cover design by Inga Böhm and cover photos by Khin Maung Kyaw; photo credit for image post goes to Current Issues in Refugee Education.Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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