I edit and manage production of bimonthly journal ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY (whose founding editor in 1985 was Jonathan Benthall) for the Royal Anthropological Institute and presently teach/perform research at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
My fieldwork in the early 80s grappled with the popularization of vipassana contemplation in Burma for a PhD in anthropology, completed in 1990 at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. There are several dozen traditions I surveyed, each with their own biographical, historical and literary trajectories, many of which have remained largely unstudied.
Since the late 90s I have focused on soteriological liberation discourses associated with vipassana (insight contemplation) and samatha (concentration meditation) deployed by national leaders including by Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi and others, aiming for independent government and release from colonial/military confinement, imprisonment or occupation. Some of these results have been published in Mental culture in Burmese crisis politics: Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy and a more recent shorter statement is in my paper
Aung San’s lan-zin, the Blue Print and the Japanese occupation of Burma (published in 2007), shows how authorship of The Blueprint for a Free Burma was most likely falsely attributed to Aung San. This document supposedly dates from the foundation of the Burma Independence Army in Japan in 1941, but was first published only in 1957, a decade after Aung San's assassination (at a time the army's Psywar directorate was active seeking to influence public opinion) by R. Sawante in The Guardian (the Burmese newspaper). It was more likely composed by Japanese military intelligence in preparation for the invasion of Burma. The value of this document for the Burma army is that, in attributing it to Aung San, this document was used to effectively help legitimize the militarization of Burma in the name of Aung San. The Blueprint for a free Burma has been referred to in publication here, here and here. It has often been used in army propaganda in Burmese newspapers to prove how Aung San Suu Kyi's aspirations for democracy are diametrically opposed to her father's presumed authoritarian leanings. Since some academics (including historians) continue to cite this as if it were an authenticated historical document authored by Aung San, this exemplifies to what extent academics have (mostly inadvertently) uncritically confirmed and legitimated army propaganda over half a century as a true historical record of the past. This document has furthermore been substantially rewritten in the latest official history of the Burmese army (eliminating, for example, the reference to royalty as an unsuitable mode of government from the 1957 version, which army leaders have increasingly sought to emulate).
At the moment I am working on several academic papers, including: on the saffron revolution of 2007, on detachment, on the language of meditation experience, and on textual transmission of Buddhist practice.
I taught contemporary Buddhism and Southeast Asian ethnography at University of British Columbia and at the School of Oriental and African Studies over the last few years and have researched and taught at universities internationally.
Have put together a syllabus for a course on public anthropology / anthropology and the media / anthropology and journalism, of topical items from Anthropology Today for discussion by students to stimulate debate on issues that touch on professional ethics and on representation of anthropology in the public sphere. This course was taught at University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand between September-December 2012.
I relish opportunities to further my research on anthropology and on Theravada Buddhism and Burma/Southeast Asia. I am available to give presentations on my research at comparatively short notice. Although mostly based in London, I can be surprisingly mobile if the right opportunity presents itself.