Karen, narrative, globalization, geo-political, marginalization, southeast asia, Thailand, hill tribes, indigneous, borderlands, borderlines
Pre-modern conceptualization of shifting borderlands and territories rather than fixed boundaries often allowed for the dynamic flow of peoples between polities. Until the late 1800s and the colonization of Burma in 1886 by the British Empire, this permeability of the borders of its territory was how Siam (currently Thailand) viewed its geo-political sphere (Thomson 1995:272). Britain extended the boundaries of its empire beyond India to guarantee the economic interests of the British Empire. With this push eastward, Siam abutted a polity that rejected the idea of shifting borderlands. The British ascribed to the modern concept of non-permeability of borders. This concept brought with it a rigidity of perception that extended beyond geographical frameworks to also psychologically limit the interpersonal connections of Siam's multi-ethnic minority populations and the Tai ethnic majority (Keyes 1979:54, Marlowe 1979:203, Thomson 1995:281). Ancient residents of what was once the borderland area, the Karen, lost their status as a valuable part of a symbiotic relationship with the dominant Thai polity and were placed within a discourse of opposing binary factions. The Karen, once respected as stewards of the remote forestlands, became part of a larger group of peoples all of which have been labeled as the "hill tribes" (Trakarnsuphakorn 1997:218). This paper addresses how globalization and these social and political changes have resulted in marginalizing a group of diverse peoples who are now viewed as a threat to the security of the nation-states in which they reside. The discussion continues with a look at how the narrative about the Karen has changed and introduces a proposal for constructing a new empowering for the Karen.
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Graduate Studies
Liberal and Interdisciplinary Studies
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Verchot, Barbara, "Creating Marginality And Reconstructing Narrative: Reconfiguring Karen Social And Geo-political Alignment" (2008). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3660.