Karaoke Fascism: Burma and the Politics of Fear

By Tannenbaum, Nicola | Anthropologica, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Karaoke Fascism: Burma and the Politics of Fear


Tannenbaum, Nicola, Anthropologica


Monique Skidmore, Karaoke Fascism: Burma and the Politics of Fear, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004,264 pages.

Skidmore did difficult fieldwork in Burma during 1996, a period of increasing turmoil as students and others openly demonstrated against the current regime. Her research was, ostensibly, to "understand the idioms of emotional and psychological distress used by various Burmese communities, and to explore the role of religion and medicine in conceptualizing and mediating such distress and as pathways for action" (p. 8). Rather than focussing directly on these topics, Skidmore directs our attention to the all encompassing fear that Burmese have to deal with on a day to day basis and the consequences this has for individual Burmese as well as for Burmese society. Researching fear is not easy, as Skidmore asks, "How does one research fear when doing so produces the very emotion in question, both in the research and the informants?" (p. x), something she explores most completely in her third chapter.

To get to this exploration, Skidmore first provides a brief introduction to Burmese history and a sketch of the resistance activities in Rangoon in September 1996. These activities are juxtaposed with places of refuge that Burmese Buddhism provides, both physically and spiritually. The third chapter then explores the fear that Skidmore faced and the Burmese continue to face. Here Skidmore argues that her experience of fear and her understanding and analysis of her embodied fear allows her to "intuit the experience of Burmese people whom I have come to know. In so doing, I argue that emotional knowledge arising from similar (never identical) circumstances can be important, in this case, necessary, for an analysis of fear in everyday lif e" (p. 35). These three chapters are compelling but difficult reading. After finishing part of a chapter I would have to put the book down because of the overwhelming awfulness of the situation that I was reading about.

In the next four chapters, the focus shifts to the contexts that the Burmese must interact in and the role of the government and its military in defining these contexts. Skidmore discusses the way the military define spaces and the thin veneers of modernity and conformity as well as the tensions created by the juxtaposition of modernity, fascism and terror. These chapters also include accounts of how people deal with the situations created by propaganda and the continuing inability to trust people because of informers and the consequent self-censorship that this entails. For her analysis, Skidmore draws on scholars of modernity and fascism, particularly Benjamin and the Frankfurt School (p. 84). I found these chapters equally difficult to read but more because of the analyses than the content. In the end, I was not convinced that drawing parallels between the situation in Burma and high modernity in Paris and Nazi Germany provided any enlightenment about the Burmese generals and their behaviour or the situation that the Burmese people face. A more meaningful comparison would have been to place the Burmese situation in its Southeast Asian context of political violence with discussions of similarities and differences with Cambodia under Pol Pot and Indonesia in the aftermath of Sukarno's defeat in 1965, the annexation of East Timor, or, more recently, the end of the Suharto period. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Karaoke Fascism: Burma and the Politics of Fear
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.