Mrauk U and the Kingdom of Arakan (Rakhine) A Talk by Jacques P. Leider
About this lecture
Mrauk U was the capital of the kingdom of Arakan (Rakhine State) for over 300 years. Compared to Venice, Amsterdam and Lisbon in its heyday in the 17th century, Mrauk U is today a provincial town with dozens of pagodas and temples that recall its great past. The opening of Myanmar, after 2011, generated international interest for hitherto little-known archaeological and historical sites in Myanmar. Yet, the ongoing Rakhine State crisis that mixes inter-ethnic conflict, state-ethnic conflict, humanitarian and rights issues, has largely prevented the development of tourism in Myanmar’s western region. Against a background of contemporary challenges, the lecture will focus on the complexity of Mrauk U’s past between Mughal India and the Burmese kingdoms. Its position at the cultural frontier between South and Southeast Asia, and its maritime context within the Bay of Bengal, invite comparisons with other Buddhist kingdoms in Southeast Asia where land and sea were associated in complex ways. The preparation of Mrauk U’s candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage status has stimulated new research, resulting in renewed understanding of the city’s urban planning, including important hydrological and defensive works. The presentation will highlight the current state of academic knowledge and introduce the original character of Rakhine civilisation.
The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2018-2019 Lecture Series.
Dr Jacques P. Leider is a historian of Southeast Asia whose research work has focused on the early modern history of Arakan (Rakhine State) and Myanmar. He studied at the Sorbonne University and the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris, where he submitted his doctoral dissertation on the history of the Mrauk U kingdom. Before joining the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), he taught at Chulalongkorn University in the late 1990s. For several years he lived and worked in Yangon, where he opened the first EFEO office in 2001. He is the current head of the EFEO offices in Yangon and Bangkok. During his assignment in Chiang Mai (2008–12), he oversaw the building of the new EFEO research library on Buddhist and Southeast Asian studies. In his current position, he is the Scientific Coordinator of CRISEA (Competing Regional Integrations in Southeast Asia, www.crisea.eu), a project supported by the European Union.
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