III-2. “Collecting and Analyzing Materials Published by Local Communities and Ethnic Minorities in Myanmar: Considering Grassroots Pluralism” (R2 FY2020)

  • Project Leader : Wada Michihiro (Kanda University of International Studies, Department of Asian Languages)
  • Collaborators : Patrick McCormick (Independent Researcher)
  • : Noemi-Tiina Dupertuis (Kyoto University, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies)
  • : Kikuchi Taihei (Osaka University, Graduate School of Language and Culture)
  • : Ono Mikiko (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)

Outline of Research

What materials have been published by local communities and ethnic minorities in Myanmar? This research will collect such publications both in the official language, Burmese, and minority languages, including Shan, Chin, Karen, Pa-O, and Mon, which are not recognized as official languages. Because such materials are mostly sold and distributed in each local community, the project members will collect them during field trips across the country. In addition, we will clarify the trends and conditions of local publications through an analysis of the authors, distribution channels, and publication contents. After being collected, these materials will be sent to Japan to become part of the collection of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies Library, Kyoto University.


The purpose of this research is to collect materials published by local communities and ethnic minorities in Myanmar and to analyze such publishing trends and conditions. Collection of these materials will contribute to research on local histories, ethnicities, religions, and languages in the western part of mainland Southeast Asia. For example, one can find numerous publications regarding local religious histories and legends in Buddhist monasteries, famous pagodas, or Christian churches in each community and area. No libraries in Japan, nor in Myanmar, have endeavored to comprehensively collect such materials published by local communities and in various minority languages. Since 2012, when prepublication censorship was abolished, Myanmar has been experiencing a publication boom. It is meaningful in the long run to collect and keep the results of this boom now for both academia and Myanmar society.

Analyzing publications in minority languages is also a key to forecasting the future of diversity in Myanmar. This study will be conducted from the perspective of “grassroots pluralism,” which is not a state policy, but rather the entire body of relatively small publication practices by the diverse minority language users. Although in Myanmar minority language education of the next generation at public schools is a subject of significant political debate, it may not be sufficient to discuss minority language use as an issue of identity politics only, which can lead to political actions to demand group rights. While private publishing in minority languages is not necessarily an endeavor to secure political rights, it is a practice that will maintain, generate, and reproduce each language community, which can lead to linguistic nationalism. To better understand the state of linguistic diversity and various linguistic nationalisms in Myanmar, it is necessary to clarify how, when, where, and by whom the books, journals, and other materials in various minority languages have been written, published, sold, distributed, bought, and read. This research will not only collect publications in various languages, but also provide broader insights into their making and distribution processes by conducting interviews with concerned persons.

Headquarters of the Chin Association for Christian Communication, the main distributor of books in Lai language (Hakha, Chin State)

Books written by an Abbot in Mon language sold at a Buddhist monastery in Mon State