Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, School of Culture, History & Language, Australian National University

Award Information

Rockin’ for a Free World: Tracking popular music jams in the longest running civil war in modern

Since 1958, ethnic Shan insurgents have been at war with the Burmese military in one of the longest-running civil wars in modern history. Although the Shan are considered to be ethnically and linguistically closer to the Thais, Shan people fleeing war seldom find welcome refuge in neighboring Thailand. Because borderland insurgent territories are not only outside the domain of the forces of the Burmese Army, the Tatmadaw, but also beyond the domineering ethnonational gaze of the Thai, these interstitial spaces form unique generative geographies for popular culture production and resignification. This process is carried out in the practice sessions of a neighborhood amateur rock band, where Shan people gather for an evening’s entertainment in the fluid switching of instruments and repertoire. Based on over two years’ ethnographic fieldwork in a community of Shan insurgents and their affiliates in a contested zone at the Thai-Burma border, as well as limited fieldwork amongst Burmese popular musicians and songwriters, this book argues that through the effective resignification of popular music genres, especially those of Burmese rock, advocates for Shan independence envision an independent Shanland which is recognized within a global order.