The Authority of Influence: Women and Power in Burmese History

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by Jessica Harriden

Why is it that, although Burmese women historically enjoyed relatively high social status and economic influence, for the most part they remained conspicuously absent from positions of authority in formal religious, social and political institutions? This is the starting point of a fascinating study that explores the relationship between gender and power in Burmese history from pre-colonial times to the present day and which aims to identify the sources, nature and limitations of women’s power. It thus examines the concept of 'family’ in Burmese political culture, how various influences like Buddhism shaped Burmese concepts of gender and power, and how the effects of prolonged armed conflict, economic isolation and political oppression have constrained opportunities for women to attain power in contemporary Burma.

"Dr Harriden’s book is fresh, original and stimulating reading. It promises to make a major contribution to the academic literature on Burma. I have no doubt that it will also be welcomed by all those – scholars and lay readers alike – with an interest in Asian societies, contemporary Burmese politics and broader gender issues.” – Andrew Selth, Griffith Asia Institute

"Placing gender relations in a historical framework, this timely book argues that Burmese women were traditionally able to negotiate constraints imposed by ambiguous attitudes towards female power, but that since the nineteenth century their status has been adversely affected by political and economic changes. The Authority of Influence explores the implications of these developments for modern Burmese society, providing readers with new information and a nuanced analysis that will open up fresh lines of inquiry, stimulate comparative discussion, and affirm the book’s significance in the expanding field of Southeast Asian gender studies.” – Barbara Watson Andaya, University of Hawai'i

Jessica Harriden holds a PhD from the University of Queensland. Her research interests include gender–power relations and ethnic identity in twentieth century and contemporary Burma.

Publication year: 2012
384 pp / 229mm x 152mm
16 figures, 1 map
ISBN: 978-87-7694-089-8, Paperback
ISBN: 978-87-7694-088-1, Hardback

NIAS Press