9-11 Sep 2015 Paris (France)
L'interaction entre les ethnicités culturelles et politiques dans l'histoire kachin moderne, 1962-2014: processus de construction nationale dans une communauté infranationale de la Birmanie/Myanmar - Interplay between cultural and political ethnicities in modern Kachin history, 1962-2014: the nation-building process within a sub-national community of Myanmar/Burma
La Raw Maran  1@  
1 : University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  Website

Kachin political opposition to the military ideology of forced assimilation of minority ethnic communities is well-known. I will focus instead on how Kachin society, which is itself composed of seven recognized linguistic sub-communities, has coped with this national political engagement in the capacity of a powerful sub-national community. Power of opposition implies capability of Kachin society as a whole to produce that power. How has this been accomplished? Ethnicity is generally understood as the quality of belonging to an ethnic group or community (ethnos), but instead of definitions I will be concerned with the associational behavior of living communities, such as Kachins, in terms of what they do to attain goals shared in the community. There are two particular aspects of Kachin associational behavior that I want to discuss. One is the social, cultural and linguistic functions that bind the members together to form an organized group or unit, regardless of whether we call that unit society, social organization or social structure. This particular associational behavior I shall refer to as cultural ethnicity, that is, it is a community that is bound together by a cultural system. The second is the associational behavior that also enables a community. In this case the Kachins see themselves in a certain way that enables them to engage in relations with other communities, including with the nation, as a sub-national community. In performing this second associational behavior Kachins essentially step out of the home community to interact with other communities and with the central government. This second behavior will include Kachins' actions to protect and preserve the interest of Kachin society. This is the political ethnicity of the Kachins. Against the background of turbulence of 1962-2014 we can ask two significant questions: The first, as a subnational community that is itself diversified in terms of language sub-communities, how does the Kachin community produce its political unity and power? I will discuss this topic in a paper already offered for a Euro-SEAS 2015 conference panel. The second question stems from the fact that their political goal has been to restore federal democracy. Thus the question: Have the Kachins been trying to belong, or become nationals of the Union of the Burma, later Myanmar, that they co-founded in Panglong, 1947? To suggest such a framework for comparison is my goal in this paper.


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