Burmese patchwork stitches

Delivered. The coup d’etat of 1er February encourages us to want to better understand the particularities of this nation which has so much difficulty in constituting itself: Burma, independent since 1948, it is seventy years of civil war, of which fifty of dictatorship, one hundred and thirty-five ethnic groups and three separate citizenships, plus resident status without citizenship. In short, a living together ceaselessly shaken up by ethnic and religious conflicts – between the large center, dominated by the Buddhist majority of the Bamar ethnic group, and the crown of border areas populated by ethnic and religious minorities, not to mention the Rohingya -, and a military dictatorship that feeds them while claiming to end them.

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To understand this complexity, the anthropologist François Robinne, a specialist in Burma, first invites us on a journey through time, which retraces the history of the country, but also thirty years in the field: his first surveys, in 1994 , had led him around Inle Lake, in Shan State, a crossroads of languages ​​and dialects which was for a long time one of the few places accessible to researchers under the dictatorship. Then came the Kachin State, to the north, with its shamanic rites and its ancestral system of “donor clans” and “women takers”, to which Christianity was superimposed, then a network of autonomous political and paramilitary groups.

Theoretical path

Between 2012 and 2016, François Robinne chose a very little studied population as his subject: the Burmese migrant workers of Bangkok, the Thai capital, a great outlet for this country crippled by crises that leaks everywhere, like a pierced pipe ”. Thousands of Burmese live in “enclaves”, highly regulated and supervised hut areas, from where they are transported in the morning to the construction sites, then brought back in the evening. Others organize themselves as independents, working in the services. A whole network of associations and unions tries to help them, establishing dynamics of coexistence far from the country.

The book is also the account of a theoretical progression, that of an author who, since his first works, claims to study a region as a whole, for, he writes, “Thus embracing in all its complexity the heterogeneous landscape, rather than focusing on one or another ethnic group or choosing a particular village”. This choice leads François Robinne to explore what sutures Burmese patchwork rather than what tears it up: “social crossroads”, as he calls them. This is the case in “ethnic” regions but also in the enclaves.

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