A Tale of Two Kingdoms: Ava and Pegu in 15th Century Burma – a seminar by Prof. Michael Aung-Thwin (Wed, 11 March 2009)

Speaker: Prof Michael Aung-Thwin (Visiting Professor, Southeast Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore)
Date: Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Time: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

“Burma” in the 15th Century was one of reformulation as well as newness: whereas the Kingdom of Ava was a reformulation of Pagan, the Kingdom of Pegu was new. For Ava, it was a familiar situation: the same material environment and demographic base, the same economic, social and political institutions, the same language, writing system, cosmology, and culture. For Pegu, although it also shared the same script, cosmology and conceptual system, some of the same history, and used the physical infrastructure laid there by the Pyu earlier and Pagam later, the kingdom itself was new, created and led by newcomers to Lower Burma in a new socio-cultural and geo-economic setting of the late 13th Century. The situation was thus a co-existence of both old and new, in time and in space. As such, Ava and Pegu represent less and irreconciable, binary antithesis, but a workable synthesis in a dualism of difference. That dualism between Ava’s oldness and Pegu’s newness especially during most of the 15th Century is an example, par excellence, of the “upstream-downstream” paradigm, a nearly universal principle in Southeast Asian history. It had consequences for both history and historiography of Burma.

About the speaker
Michael Aung-Thwin is currently Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and Visiting Professor with the FASS Southeast Asian Studies Programme. He has held academic positions at Elmira College (USA), Kyoto University, and Northern Illinois University, where he served as Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. He has written numerous articles and books on the history and culture of pre-colonial Burma, include The Mists of Ramanna: The Legend that was Lower Burma (2006), Myth & History in the Historiography of Early Burma: Paradigms, Primary Sources & Prejudices (1998), and Pagan: Origins of Modern Burma (1985).