The concept of taingyintha, or “national races”, is among the preeminent political ideas in Myanmar today. But because taingyintha is translated from Burmese inconsistently, and because its usage in Burmese is itself highly contingent, its significance for political thought, speech and action is lost in work on Myanmar by scholars writing in English. In this seminar I trace the haphazard emergence of taingyintha and examine its striking part in constituting a regime for the production of political truth. I touch on the national races’ taxonomic volatility, and interrogate the relationship between taingyintha identity and citizenship. In closing I discuss the responsibility of scholars and intellectuals in Myanmar and abroad to ask questions of the national-races idea, rather than concede to its arrangements for bifurcated racialized politics.
About the Speaker
Nick Cheesman is a research fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. He is author of Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order (Cambridge UP, 2015). In the last couple of years, Nick has published in Modern Asian Studies, Social Research, South East Asia Research, Wisconsin International Law Journal and the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, as well as in a number of edited books. He convenes the Myanmar/Burma Update conference at the ANU and hosts the New Books in Southeast Asian Studies podcast on the New Books Network.