The Nation and its Threats

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted here, a longer gap than usual. Events on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border have created a fraught context for writing on the country’s past; it has become imperative for historical work to address the bleak humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya. Returning to my research with the escalating exodus…

Podcast

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by Luke Corbin for his “Myanmar Musings” podcast. We talked about some of my recent work on the history of animals, particularly elephants and cattle. Luke is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University researching the history and anthropology of beer in Myanmar. During his trip…

Animals Against Whiteness

Apparently, some animals in Burma had a particular loathing for White people. According to the Fitz William Pollok and W. S. Thom’s 1900 guide to wild sports, buffaloes were especially ill-disposed to White skin. Informing would-be imperial hunters of the animal’s general ferocity, they warned that, ‘Even the tame cow, that will allow itself to…

Colonial Slaughterhouse Rules

A couple of weeks ago I had an article published by the Journal of Historical Geography on the history of dairy cattle in colonial Burma. The article explored how oxen were bound up with colonial geographies; in this case through the state’s policing of the movement of Indian milch cattle into British Burma. Something that…

Teak and Photography in Colonial Burma

A few days ago the great grandson of Percival Marshall—an employee of the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation during the interwar years—made contact with me to share his relavtive’s photographs of working in colonial Burma’s forests. The images document the labour that went into felling trees and transporting them across the country for export. They show…

The Call of the Tame

In the introduction to their edited collection, the  geographers Chris Philo and Chris Wilbert drew a distinction between ‘animal spaces’ and ‘beastly places’.  Animal spaces were the material and imaginative geographies that nonhuman species were put by humans. So, dogs belong in a kennel, monkeys in a zoo or the wild, goldfish in a goldfish…

Where’s the Cow in the Condensed Milk?

I’ve recently been doing some research into milk production in colonial Burma and going through the pages of the anti-colonial daily newspaper Thuriya for the interwar years. Despite trying to encourage domestic production of commodities through articulating a form of economic nationalism, the paper was mostly full of adverts for foreign products—including both powdered and…

Animals in the Asylum

Last week I presented a paper as part of a panel on the history of lunatic asylums at the European Association of Southeast Asian Studies’ annual conference, hosted by the University of Vienna. It was the first time that I had returned to the subject of colonial psychiatry since I completed the research for my…

Milking It?

I have just come back from an amazing interdisciplinary conference on food in Asia organized by the Asian Dynamics Initiative at the University of Copenhagen. It was attended by historians, anthropologists, food scientists and many others, who talked on topics that included the production of sake, the ethics of vegetarianism, the authenticity of Anglo-Indian curry-houses,…