Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ruminations and confession for writing a Wikipedia article on Burmese or Myanmar history

Perhaps because I converted to Catholicism when I was 24, I have a tendency toward guilt, apology, and confession. So here is my guilty confession for writing Burmese history:

Some people might say that I shouldn't write this Wikipedia entry because: 1. I wrote an article that it cites (Fernquest, 2005) in which I make a new point that some might not agree with, so there might be a conflict of interest of me pushing a new point that hasn't been adequately subjected to batteries of peer review yet. 2. I'm not Burmese, although his doesn't seem to be an issue with other histories such as Greek or Byzantine, it does seem to be an issue with the history of Burma. Anyway, I'm planning on specializing in the "history of non-Western and pre-modern warfare" part of world or comparative history and comparing Burma with other times and places. Anyway, I'll give this Wikipedia entry my best shot. I may have to make it more summary.

Writing a Wikipedia article is a good opportunity to summarize and extract, to hone in on the essential, what is important. The process of writing is backwards from where you normally go when you write a long article. Long articles try to draw out causal connections and develop rich contexts and interpretations based on the many factors at play at any historical time and place.

I think using "Tai" is better than "Shan" because it highlights the cross-regional nature of this group which stretched from Yunnan down into what is now Burma and along to Chiang Mai and Lan Chang (Laos). Thank you to Pamaree Suakiat for the perfectly well thought out bibliographical entries.