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CSEAS Lecture Series. Beyond the East-West Encounter: Inter-Asian Intimacies and Estrangements in Colonial and Postcolonial Burma, 1850–1950

Chie Ikeya, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University
Friday, September 20, 2019
12:00-1:00 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
Sexual, conjugal, and household relations between white colonial masters and native women have long served as the paradigm of the colonial encounter. The talk offers a different and as yet untold story of colonial interaction: inter-Asian intimacies. Under British (1826–1942; 1945–47) and Japanese (1942–45) colonial rule, Burma, as with much of Southeast Asia, was a destination for millions of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese merchants, laborers, soldiers, and civil servants. These overwhelmingly male Asian subjects and brokers of empire forged intimate ties with local women as sexual, emotional, domestic, and business partners—one role often bleeding into another—within and outside the institution of marriage. These intimacies became, over the course of the twentieth century, flashpoints for far-reaching legislative reforms, communal riots, and anti-colonial, Buddhist, feminist, and nationalist movements. Based on imperial archival, vernacular, and oral sources in Burmese, Japanese, Chinese, and English that have never been brought together, the talk explores shifts and continuities in perceptions, practices, and experiences of inter-Asian intimacy in colonial Burma, resisting both the stigmatization and the romanticization of inter-Asian intimacies as either treacherous liaisons or heroic acts of radical love. It shows how inter-Asian intimacies constituted the primary, and hitherto unrecognized, site for articulating and adjudicating modern understandings of race, religion, and nation that continue to vex Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia today. The talk concludes with a reflection on the significance of these prevalent yet neglected intimacies for new approaches to the study of modern colonialisms and their legacies.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: center for southeast asian studies, Cseas Lecture Series, discussion, Southeast Asia
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Southeast Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures