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Remaining Karen

Remaining Karen: A Study of Cultural Reproduction and the Maintenance of Identity OPEN ACCESS

ANANDA RAJAH
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24h2pw
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    Remaining Karen
    Book Description:

    This publication of Remaining Karen is intended as a tribute to Ananda Raja and his consummate skills as an ethnographer. It is also a tribute to his long-term engagement in the study of the Karen. Remaining Karen was Ananda Raja's first focused study of the Sgaw Karen of Palokhi in northern Thailand, which he submitted in 1986 for this PhD in the Department of Anthropology in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at The Australian National University. It is a work of superlative ethnography set in an historical and regional context and as such retains its value to the present.  

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-11-3
    Subjects: Anthropology
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  1. Foreword (pp. vii-viii)
    James J. Fox

    This publication of Remaining Karen is intended as a tribute to Ananda Rajah and his consummate skills as an ethnographer. It is also a tribute to his long-term engagement in the study of the Karen. Remaining Karen was Ananda Rajahʹs first focused study of the Sgaw Karen of Palokhi in northern Thailand, which he submitted in 1986 for this PhD in the Department of Anthropology in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at The Australian National University. It is a work of superlative ethnography set in an historical and regional context and as such retains its value to...

  2. This study is concerned with how a small Karen community of 20 households, in the highlands of Northern Thailand, maintains its cultural identity in the context of a predominantly Northern Thai socio-economic environment and a slowly growing presence of the administrative apparatus of the larger polity of Thailand.

    The nature of the economic relations between this Karen community, Palokhi, and its Northern Thai neighbours and its contacts with Thai government agencies raises an important issue. Palokhi is, quite evidently, integrated at various levels into this wider socio-economic and political system. Yet, the Palokhi Karen offer every indication of having what...

  3. Of the eight Karen villages in the Mae Muang Luang-Huai Thung Choa area, Palokhi (first settled in 1953) is the most recently established Karen community in the area while the oldest, at Huai Dua and Mae Muang Luang (see Figure 1.1), have been in existence for about one hundred years. Although the history of Palokhi as a settlement is a comparatively short one as far as Karen communities in the immediate area are concerned, it has nevertheless been an eventful one. The village has undergone four changes of location and two successions of headmen. It has also grown considerably as...

  4. In this chapter, I describe the kinship system of the Palokhi Karen and its role in the formation, existence and interrelationships of domestic groups which are the cornerstone of social organisation in the community. Kinship, marriage, and domestic social organisation, however, do not exist merely in relation to one another. They are linked to a system of naming individuals, and a system of sex differentiation. Furthermore, the ritual life of domestic groups includes a ritual, ʹauʹ ma xae, which is an integral part of the religious system of the Palokhi Karen, a system that is inextricably bound to agriculture.

    I...

  5. Kinship in Palokhi, as we have seen, is inextricably linked to systems of naming, sex categories, and customary rules on residence at marriage as well as ritual. It is a central part of social organisation in Palokhi and, as I have shown, it also possesses symbolic and ideological elements. In this chapter, I turn to a consideration of yet another important aspect of the community life of the Palokhi Karen, namely, the socio-economic relations in subsistence production and consumption which, for all practical purposes, may well be regarded as constituting the other major substantive aspect of social organisation in the...

  6. The Palokhi Karen are best regarded as subsistence-oriented or, to use Pennyʹs term (1969:152), ʺsubsistence-mindedʺ producers. They are subsistence-oriented rather than pure subsistence cultivators in the sense that virtually all productive activity, agricultural as well as non-agricultural, is directed towards the satisfaction of basic food requirements. Of these requirements, the consumption of rice is by far the most important as it is their staple food.

    The economy of Palokhi consists of two sectors: an agricultural sector which is based on swiddening and wet-rice cultivation, and a cash or market economy which links Palokhi with other communities in the Pa Pae...

  7. We have seen in the last chapter that the Palokhi Karen are dependent on swiddening, wet-rice cultivation, and a cash economy for their subsistence needs. Indeed, for several households in Palokhi, the cash sector is crucial in enabling them to meet their subsistence needs. Notwithstanding the extent to which the Palokhi Karen are dependent on an external economy, swidden agriculture is regarded as the dominant form of subsistence production within the community. This particular perception of swiddening is based on two factors: first, an understanding that swidden agriculture predates wet-rice agriculture and is seen as a ʺKarenʺ system of cultivation;...

  8. In the late eighteenth century, Father Vincentius Sangermano made the following remarks about the Karen in Burma:

    It is worthy of observation that, although residing in the midst of the Burmese and Peguans, they not only retain their own language, but even their dress, houses, and everything else are distinguished from them; and what is more remarkable, they have a different religion. (Sangermano, quoted in Keyes [1979a:1]).

    These observations are as true today of the Palokhi Karen in the Pa Pae hills as they were of the Karen amongst the Burmese and Mon of Burma in Sangermanoʹs time. As I...