Magnus Fiskesjö, “Stories from an Ancient Land: Perspectives on Wa History and Culture” (Berghahn Books, 2021)

In 2013, the Journal of Burma Studies published an article titled “An Introduction to Wa Studies.” It seems that even within the last decade the Wa, an upland people living predominantly on what is today the Burma-China frontier, still needed to be introduced to other scholars of the region. Magnus Fiskesjö, the article’s author, began with the caveat that it was by no means complete and was intended only by way of brief introduction. But the article held out the promise of more, and now its author has delivered, with Stories from an Ancient Land: Perspectives on Wa History and Culture (Berghahn, 2021). In this episode, Magnus joins New Books in Southeast Asian Studies to discuss everything from rice beer to silver mining, opium production and warfare, the tension between the Wa egalitarian ethos and practices of slave holding, and the present and possible future conditions for a people on the periphery of mainland Southeast Asia in an age of intolerant ethno-nationalism.

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Nick Cheesman is Associate Professor, Department of Political & Social Change, Australian National University and Senior Fellow, Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, University at Buffalo (Fall 2022). He hosts the New Books in Interpretive Political & Social Science series on the New Books Network.

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