Accepted Paper:

SPECTRAL LANDSCAPES: GHOSTS OF COLONIALISM, CONFLICT AND CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE SOUTHEAST HIGHLANDS OF MYANMAR  

Author:

Tomas Cole (Stockholm University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I discuss how the landscapes along the western bank of the Salween River in Southeast Myanmar are replete with ghosts. Not only the kind that go bump in the night but also the ghosts of Colonialism, Christian proselytising, chronic conflict and growing concerns of ecological collapse.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I discuss how the landscapes along the western bank of the Salween River in Southeast Myanmar are replete with ghosts. Not only the kind that go bump in the night but also the ghosts of Colonialism, Christian proselytising, chronic conflict and growing concerns of ecological collapse haunt these highlands. I am interested in how this kind of haunting can be understood as spectral. Spectres are at once of the past, yet, as caught so vividly in the first line of the Communist Manifesto (Marx & Engels 1848), always haunting the present in their potential to break into the current moment and (violently) refigure the future. I begin this paper by demonstrating how 'imperial debris' (Stoler 2013) such as Japanese army helmets and British guns are constantly being retrofitted by the locals to serve pressing current demands, as chicken feeders and blunderbuss like hunting rifles. I then use these findings as a springboard to better grasp local cosmologies where materials, stories and myths are constantly retrofitted to meet present exigencies and, in the process, attempt to absorb and domesticate radical alterity. I then go on to explore how these spectres are weaved into the very landscape of these highlands and continually shape present hopes and fears in the face of looming threats, of climate change as their crops continue to fail year after year, and that the next outbreak of conflict may be the last.

Panel P043
Temporalities of the past: moments, memories, and futures in the making