This work is neither a work of creative non-fiction like Alex Haley’s Roots (1976) nor a biography, though my use of autoethnography may lead some readers to think it is biographical. History helps us understand what occurred in Burma prior to the diasporic departure of the Anglo-Burmese community.
There is a historical context to the vivacious culture of the Anglo-Burmese, who liked to express themselves and bonded together to form a community in Burma. A community whose roots started in Burma and whose allegiance was to their European British heritage, but whose forefathers did not really view this community as being part of the British family.
Perceptions are filtered through cultural locations. Culture shields and legitimizes inequalities. Rules that exist to guide activities can also be used to block and control activities. It is within the multiple contexts of histories pertinent to institutions, places, and individuals that I try to connect socio-cultural theories, history, and politics in order to help achieve an interdisciplinary understanding of Anglo-Burmese culture. The use of “everyday” lived experiences is a more obvious form of research that entails using autoethnography in order to facilitate a point of intersection where research methods commingle with theories framing Anglo-Burmese culture.
How do we identify ourselves? “Where do you come from?” is a question that is asked when people meet you in the West. When I say “I am Anglo-Burmese,” I am often told by people that I neither look Anglo nor Burmese and that I could be categorized as an Indian from the West Indies because of my skin colour and features. In response to such labelling, I explain to people what being Anglo-Burmese actually means. In instances when I want to avoid the hassle and burden of explaining my racial-cultural-ethnic heritage to people, I simply say that I am Canadian, though this then generally leads to the question of, “Yes, but where did your parents come from?”
This is the beginning content from a book I will be publishing this year –
Anglo-Burmese Culture: Letters from my mother.
Witting this was an empowering psycho-emotional journey for me, which benefitted from my interactions with family, friends, and diasporic Anglo-Burmese. I am going to Australia and will once again do some research with the community to see if any understanding of the culture remains or as I predict it will die out in the diaspora. I for one, use very little of what I learned as a child in Burma as living in Canada for most of my life has made my life and values more Canadian than Anglo-Burmese. My brother’s children and their children in Australia – they know the term but their lived experience in Australia. I hope when the book comes out that they will have some understanding of their heritage that goes beyond the food they like to eat.