Welcome to the Tea Circle

_DSC0235Welcome to the Tea Circle, a new forum for emerging research on Burma/Myanmar, hosted by the Programme on Modern Burmese Studies at St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford. Anyone who has spent time in Myanmar is familiar with tea shop culture, where friends, co-workers, conspirators, and even rivals gather to talk, debate, and exchange ideas over cups of sweetened milk tea and snacks. That tradition has inspired this blog.

Since the Programme on Modern Burmese Studies was founded in 2013, it has welcomed a growing number of students, scholars, and community members interested in Burma/Myanmar studies, from across a range of disciplines— whether the social sciences, natural sciences or humanities. Today there are dozens of us. We meet in coffee shops, classrooms, lecture halls, at seminars, and in England’s ubiquitous pubs, discussing the week’s news, sharing research ideas, and learning from the diverse range of experiences represented by our colleagues. Given that, for the majority of us, our past engagement with other Myanmar scholars was uneven and irregular, I think I can say that we are all grateful to have found one another.

With the dramatic shifts we’ve seen in the field of Burma/Myanmar studies— in terms of opportunities for access, collaboration, and debate— what was once a small circle of academics has changed dramatically, growing larger, more diverse, and more expansive than ever before. High-quality research is being produced at an astonishing rate, from centers and project-based initiatives all over the world and, significantly, within Burma/Myanmar and the broader Southeast Asian region itself. Here at Oxford, we have certainly seen these shifts firsthand, and recognize that our individual pursuits— whether in academia, advocacy, or beyond— have only been strengthened by the kind of dialogue and exchange made possible by immersion in a community of like-minded, passionate peers.

With this in mind, we’ve spent the past months preparing and planning for the launch of Tea Circle, believing that the discussions and insights we foster in our own community can only be strengthened by extending and expanding upon the network we’ve developed here. We hope you’ll pull up a seat or a stool, settle in with a coffee, a pint or, as we recommend, a cup of tea, and join us.

Tea Circle covers emerging research, news, debate, and discussions relating to Burma/Myanmar, on a wide range of subjects and across a diversity of disciplines. We’ll offer critical commentary and new perspectives on Burma/Myanmar during its period of political and economic transition, and on the increasingly complex convergences, interactions, and opportunities that exist in the country, within Southeast Asia, and the region at-large. We’ll profile research, dialogues, and events occurring here in Oxford, linking up our work with that of others, both in Burma/Myanmar and elsewhere. Most significantly, however, we aim to highlight the work of new scholars and of those working in areas— whether geographic or thematic— that have been historically marginalized both in Myanmar’s political and popular discourses, and in scholarship on the country more broadly.

Our contributors are undergraduates, postgraduates, fellows, faculty, and staff at the University and, often, at St Antony’s College, along with members of the broader Oxford community. We also work with friends and colleagues around the world as guest contributors and therefore welcome submissions from those outside the University, outside of Oxford, and outside of the academy. Whether you are a researcher, a volunteer, advocate, or member of the public, if your interest is in Burma/Myanmar, we would love to hear from you.

Tea Circle is just one of a growing and wide-ranging set of initiatives, projects, and collaborations related to Burma/Myanmar at St Antony’s College and at the University of Oxford more broadly. We encourage you to learn more about our work and the work of our colleagues above, in the “Oxford in Myanmar” portion of the site. We also welcome visitors, speakers, and presentations, so please be in touch if you’ll be in our neighborhood in the near future.

You will notice that we have not enabled comments for our posts. While we aim to create an interactive community, we are not convinced that the comment sections (even on respected academic sites) provide a useful medium for fostering thoughtful, respectful discussion. Therefore, if you would like to reply to one of our posts, write something yourself and submit it!

You can always reach us with questions, feedback, or responses by emailing editor@teacircleoxford.com.


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Author: Courtney Wittekind

Courtney T. Wittekind is currently a PhD student in Social Anthropology at Harvard University. She completed a M.Phil at the University of Oxford where she studied as a member of St Antony’s College and Rhodes Scholar. Her current research centers on questions of transition, place, and the unseen in Myanmar’s Shan State.