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Sociology 263 -- The Karen of Northern Thailand

The Karen of Northern Thailand

Doi Chiang Dao

Doi Chiang Dao

Sociology 263 -- The Karen of Northern Thailand

Interim 1998

General Education credit in HBS -- Studies in Human Behavior and Society
Major credit -- Sociology-Anthropology, Women's Studies, Asian Studies

Cost of Program $2500
(Includes Airfare, Food, Lodging, Fees, etc.)

Sociology 263 -- The Karen of Northern Thailand

Interim 1998

Catalogue Statement:

Village Scene

Village Scene

Catalogue Statement:

Through interviews with tribal leaders and village residents and the reading of written materials concerning the Sgaw Karen, students will gain an understanding of the Karen people. The Karen are facing rapic cultural assimilation due to pressures from the dominant culture and social institutions of Thailand, and from trends toward global homogenization shaped by increasing activity of multinational corporations and the spread of Western culture to previously more isolated peoples of the world. Students taking this class will live near the Sgaw Karen village of Tee Mae Ker Lah, situated 120 miles northwest of Chiang Mai (Thailand's second largest city).

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Sociology 263 -- The Karen of Northern Thailand

Full Course Description

Karen Women

Karen Women

Full Course Description

Through interviews with tribal leaders and village residents and the reading of written materials concerning the Sgaw Karen, students will gain an understanding of the Karen people. The Karen are facing rapic cultural assimilation due to pressures from the dominant culture and social institutions of Thailand, and from trends toward global homogenization shaped by increasing activity of multinational corporations and the spread of Western culture to previously more isolated peoples of the world. Students taking this class will live near the Sgaw Karen village of Tee Mae Ker Lah, situated 120 miles northwest of Chiang Mai (Thailand's second largest city).

The country of Thailand has a population of approximately 61 million people, and almost 695,000 of those are tribal minorities who live in the mountains. Of Thailand's six major tribal groups, the Karen are as large as all other tribal groups combined--nearly 322,000 people. The Karen share a common language, biological characteristics, and share a cultural heritage. This heritage includes Karen history, tales, legends, myths in songs, poetry, and prose; religious rituals; and preferences for dress and food.

The Karen of Tee Mae Ker Lah, like all other ethnic groups, are confronted with social change. As much as they want to maintain their Karen ethnic identity within the country of Thailand, they are being pressured to assimilate into the larger society. Some of the social changes promote what Karen consider to be a better life for their families--they have greater access to education, health care, food, transportation, communication, better housing, ample water, warm clothing, and energy to light their homes and cook their food. Yet, such benefits may come at the cost of loosing their distinctive Karen culture.

Increasingly the primary language of Karen children is Thai and presently few children are able to read and write their tribal language. Traditional Karen dress, an important source of ethnic pride and identity, is now reserved for special occasions. The performance of ancestral Karen music and dance is so rare that even most middle-age adults are unable to participate. Historic Karen stories, poems, and songs are no longer a part of the collective memory. Their history and folk heros are not even taught in the private schools that they themselves sponsor. Given the fact Tee Mae Ker Lah is located in a government protected forestry area and there are virtually no additional rice fields being cleared to provide for the needs of the village's children and their future families, how long will it take before the Karen people are completely assimilated into Thai society once they leave their mountain homelands and move into the large urban centers of Thailand?

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Academic Requirements:

CMU North Gate

CMU North Gate

Academic Requirements:

For the first week of the class, students will live in Chiang Mai (Thailand) and attempt to understand the larger Thai society that is attempting to assimilate the Karen people. After taking up residency in the village of Tee Mae Ker Lah, students will gather empirical data on Karen family, religious, political, economic, and educational institutions. They will also attempt to understand how changes within the larger society and world have affected the lives of people in the village.

While in the village, students will receive group and individualized instruction as they write a descriptive paper on the structure, functions, and changes that have taken place in one of the following social institutions: family, religion, or education. In gathering information for these papers, students will have group access and personal interviews (assisted by interpreters) with village leaders, pastors, educators, the village headman and tribal elders. In addition to the term paper, students will take an examination covering readings on the Sgaw Karen of northern Thailand and submit a personal "reflexive" journal.

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SCHEDULE FOR THAILAND

Wat Prasing

Wat Prasing

SCHEDULE FOR THAILAND

Jan 5 (M) Meet at MSP Airport at 10:OO PM to fly to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Jan 7 (W) Arrive in Chiang Mai at 7:30 PM and transfer to Suan Doi Guest House.

Jan 8 (F)

Jan 8 (Sa) Elephant Camp, 14 Waterfalls, Butterfly and Orchid Farms, Botanical Gardens & Wat Doi Suthep

Jan 9 (Su) Visit factories (silk, silver, woodcarving) and the hot springs at San Kamphaeng and Zoo near CMU

Jan 10 (M)

Jan 11 (Tu)

Jan 12-29 Conduct research in Tee Mae Ker Lah village. Students will be housed at at the Hilltribe Resources and Development Center in a hostel located in Ban Mai Phattana. The village is located 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Chiang Mai. After arriving at the Hilltribe Resources and Development Center we will move into the guest hostel. We will stay for three weeks in the village. During this time we will interview village leaders (headmen, pastors, animist priest and shaman, Sahamit School teachers and principal, and a variety of village elders). Students attend a number of village cultural events and ceremonies and visit village social institutions. We will also visit two Hmong villages, a Lisu village, and at least seven Karen villages, and have short home stays with village people.

Jan 29 (Th) Return to Chiang Mai and take night train to Bangkok

Jan 30 (F) Arrive Bangkok 6:00AM and travel to Pattaya Beach and spend night in Pattaya at Orchid Lodge.

Jan 31 (Sa) Drive to Murang Boran and tour ancient city, stay at Bangkok YMCA.

Feb 1 (Su) Royal Palace and Wats, and Farewell Dinner

Feb 2 (M) Transfer to Airport at 6:00 AM and return to Minneapolis

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Relevant Experience of the Instructor

Mike Leming

Mike Leming

Relevant Experience of the Instructor

The primary focus of Dr. Leming's formal academic training was the sociological study of social institutions. Dr. Leming has published extensively on cross-cultural and comparative studies of kinship, religion, death rituals, and bereavement behavior leading to the publication of nine textbooks and anthologies.

During the 1990-91 academic year, Dr. Leming served as the field supervisor for the Term in Asia and lived in Thailand for three months and studied the Thai language at Chiang Mai University. In January of 1991 he made his first visit to the six Karen villages in the Mae Chem area. Since that time he has returned to these villages and lived in Tee Mae Ker Lah for one month stays in 1993, 1994 and 1995 for the purpose of teaching and doing ethnographic research on Karen village life. As a result of these research efforts, he has made many professional presentations on Karen village life, produced a documentary video tape (80 minutes in length in both English and Karen languages), and filed ethnographic research reports with the Thai Government, the Hilltribe Research Institute, and the Karen Cultural Center in Ban Mai Phattana.

During his 1995-96 sabbatical leave, Dr. Leming served as visiting professor of sociology in the Faculty of Humanities of Chiang Mai University. While in Thailand, and with the assistance of a major grant by the Pew Foundation, Professor Leming conducted ethnographic and survey research in three Karen villages concerned with the cultural assimilation of the Karen people of the Mae Chem area. This reasearch lead to the production of an 80 minute documentary film and a monograph on the Karen of Mu Si Khee. He has spent time in more than 20 different Thai tribal villages. In the context of this sabbatical research effort, Dr. Leming did further Thai language study at Chiang Mai University.

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COMMUNICATIONS AND EMERGENCY CONTINGENCY PLANS

Sam Lor (Tricycle)

Sam Lor (Tricycle)

COMMUNICATIONS AND EMERGENCY CONTINGENCY PLANS

  1. While in Chiang Mai students will stay at the Suan Doi House. We can be reached by telephone or FAX 24 hours per day (Phone 053-221869). Messages or FAXes can also be sent to Thavi Chokchai (retired teacher from Prince Royal College and uncle of Zothansiami Ralte -- Phone 053-243616).
  2. Before going to the village we will make formal prearrangements with boarder police for preapproval for emergency helicopter evacuation service in case of any health problem. We will also have access to a 4 wheel drive truck that can transport sick or injured people to the nearby hospital located 40 miles from the village. There is a health center (with a nurse and pharmacist) located less than a mile from the Hilltribes Resources and Development Center.
  3. There is a secure communications link between the village of Tee Mae Ker Lah and Chiang Mai (or the United States of America) through the village's phone service (Phone 053-229039). Logistics will be coordinated with Pirapon Isarabhakdi, a close personal friend who lives on the campus of Chiang Mai University. He was a former visiting professor from CMU to Olaf College (Phone 053-217349, office 053-943241, or e-mail huhii001@chiangmai.ac.th).
  4. We will make formal prearrangements with McCormick Hospital to insure open communication between interim course and hospital staff should emergency arise (My friend Dr. Surin is a member of the staff (home phone 053-212280).
  5. An E-mail message, phone call, or fax will be sent from Thavi Chokchai (Phone 053-243616) or Pirapon Isarabhakdi (Phone 053-217349, office 053-943241, e-mail huhii001@chiangmai.ac.th) to St. Olaf International Studies in the event of any emergency.
  6. Should any person needing emergency treatment, I will travel with the student to the hospital and the remaining students will be supervised by Zothansiami Ralte, the project director of the Hilltribes Resources and Development Center and our on sight supervision and contact person in the village of Ban Mai Phattana. (Located two kilometers from the village of Tee Mae Ker Lah, Address: P. O. Box 91, Chiangmai, Thailand 50000. (Phone 053-229039)

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REQUIRED READINGS

CMU Salatham Hall

CMU Salatham Hall

REQUIRED READINGS


Hayami, Yoko.  1992. "RITUAL AND RELIGIOUS TRANSFORMATION AMONG
 	 SGAW KAREN OF NORTHERN THAILAND: IMPLICATIONS ON GENDER
	 AND ETHNIC IDENTITY." Ph. D. Thesis Department of Anthropology, 
	 Brown University.

Hovemyr, Anders.  1989.  IN SEARCH OF THE KAREN KING: A STUDY IN
	 KAREN IDENTITY WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO 19TH CENTURY
	 KAREN EVANGELISM IN NORTHERN THAILAND. Uppsala, Sweden:
	 Uppsala University Press.

Keyes, Charles F. (Editor). 1979.  ETHNIC ADAPTATION AND IDENTITY:
	THE KAREN ON THE THAI FRONTIER WITH BURMA.  Philadelphia:
 	Institute for the Study of Human Issues. 

Maybury-Lewis.  1997.  INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, ETHNIC GROUPS, AND THE
	STATE  (The Cultural Survival Studies in Ethnicity and Change).
	Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Mulder, Niels.  1992.	INSIDE THAI SOCIETY: AN INTERPRETATION OF
	EVERYDAY LIFE. Bangkok: D. K. Book House.

Renard, Ronald D.  1980.  KARIANG: HISTORY OF KAREN-T'AI RELATIONS
	FROM THE BEGINNINGS TO 1923.  Ph. D. Thesis Department of History,
	University of Hawaii. 

Renard, Ronald D., et. al.  1988.  CHANGES IN THE NORTHERN HILLS:  AN
	EXAMINATION OF THE IMPACT OF HILL TRIBE DEVELOPMENT WORK 1957-1987. 
	Chiang Mai, Thailand: Research and Development Center, Payap
	University.

Yoshimatsu, Kumiko.  1989.  THE KAREN WORLD: THE COSMOLOGICAL AND RITUAL 
	BELIEF SYSTEM OF THE SGAW KAREN IN NORTHWESTERN CHIANG MAI PROVINCE. 
	"Final research Report presented to the National Research council of 
	Thailand, Bangkok."

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ANNOTATED READINGS


Hayami, Yoko.  1992. "RITUAL AND RELIGIOUS TRANSFORMATION AMONG
 	 SGAW KAREN OF NORTHERN THAILAND: IMPLICATIONS ON GENDER
	 AND ETHNIC IDENTITY." Ph. D. Thesis Department of Anthropology, 
	 Brown University.
	
	This is a recent anthropological Ph. D. dissertation dealing with 
	changes in three Karen villages--including Tee Mae Ker Lah and Ban 
	Wat Chan. 


Hovemyr, Anders.  1989.  IN SEARCH OF THE KAREN KING: A STUDY IN
	 KAREN IDENTITY WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO 19TH CENTURY
	 KAREN EVANGELISM IN NORTHERN THAILAND. Uppsala, Sweden:
	 Uppsala University Press.

	This is an Ph. D. dissertation in the field of history concerned 
with  Karen Identity in the countries of Burma and Thailand and focusing 
on the changes that have taken place in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Keyes, Charles F. (Editor). 1979.  ETHNIC ADAPTATION AND IDENTITY:
	THE KAREN ON THE THAI FRONTIER WITH BURMA.  Philadelphia:
 	Institute for the Study of Human Issues. 

	This edited work is concerned with Karen Identity in the countries 
of Burma and Thailand. 


Maybury-Lewis.  1997.  INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, ETHNIC GROUPS, AND THE
	STATE  (The Cultural Survival Studies in Ethnicity and Change).
	Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

	The first in a new series of monographs on ethnicity and social 
change sponsored by Cultural Survival.  The book focuses on ethnic 
minorities and indigenous peoples as they try to defend their rights, 
their resources and their ways of life within modern states. 


Mulder, Niels.  1992.	INSIDE THAI SOCIETY: AN INTERPRETATION OF
	EVERYDAY LIFE. Bangkok: D. K. Book House.
	
	This short book provides an understanding of Thai culture and 
society written from a "forang" perspective based upon interviews with 
indigenous Thai by a visiting professor at Chiang Mai University.  

Renard, Ronald D.  1980.  KARIANG: HISTORY OF KAREN-T'AI RELATIONS
	FROM THE BEGINNINGS TO 1923.  Ph. D. Thesis Department of History,
	University of Hawaii. 

	This is an Ph. D. dissertation on the history of the Thai Karen 
until 1923.  


Renard, Ronald D., et. al.  1988.  CHANGES IN THE NORTHERN HILLS:  AN
	EXAMINATION OF THE IMPACT OF HILL TRIBE DEVELOPMENT WORK 1957-1987. 
	Chiang Mai, Thailand: Research and Development Center, Payap
	University.

	An empirical research monograph investigating social change of 
tribal villages in the Mae Chaem area.  


Yoshimatsu, Kumiko.  1989.  THE KAREN WORLD: THE COSMOLOGICAL AND RITUAL 
	BELIEF SYSTEM OF THE SGAW KAREN IN NORTHWESTERN CHIANG MAI PROVINCE.
	"Final research Report presented to the National Research council of 
	Thailand, Bangkok."

	An empirical research monograph the explores traditional the 
Karen religious practice of "au xae." 

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BOOKS AVAILABLE TO STUDENTS FOR USE IN WRITING THEIR TERM PAPERS

Wat Jedi Luan

Wat Jedi Luan

BOOKS AVAILABLE TO STUDENTS FOR USE IN WRITING THEIR TERM PAPERS


Conklin, James.  1984.	"WORLD VIEW EVANGELISM: A CASE STUDY OF THE
	 KAREN BAPTIST CHURCH IN THAILAND," Doctor of Missiology
	 Dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary. 

De Vos, W. and L. Romanussi-Ross. (Editors).  1982.  ETHNIC IDENTITY:
	 CULTURAL CONTINUITIES AND CHANGE. Chicago: University of Chicago 
	Press.

Keyes, Charles F. (Editor)  1977.  THE GOLDEN PENINSULA: CULTURE AND
	 ADAPTATION IN MAINLAND SOUTHEAST ASIA.  New York: Macmillan
	 Press. 

Koehler, Oliver.  1990. "Teamegala and The Karen Baptist Church,"
	Thesis for School of International Training, College Semester 
	Abroad in Thailand, Cornell University.

Lewis, Paul and Elaine Lewis.  1984.  PEOPLES OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE.
	London: Thames and Hudson.

Maniratanavongsiri, Chumpol.  1992.  "RELIGION AND SOCIAL CHANGE: ETHNIC
	CONTINUITY AND CHANGE AMONG THE KAREN IN THAILAND WITH
 	REFERENCE TO THE CANADIAN INDIAN EXPERIENCE." M. A. Thesis
 	Canadian Heritage and Development Studies Program, Trent University
	(Peterborough, Ontario, Canada).

McKinnon, John and Bernard Vienne.  1989.  HILL TRIBES TODAY: PROBLEMS
	IN CHANGE.  White Lotus-Orstom (Tri-Orstom Project).

Mischune, Roland.  1986. "ENVIRONMENTAL ADAPTATION AMONG UPLANDS
	PEOPLES OF NORTHERN THAILAND: KAREN/HMONG CASE STUDY.  
	"Final research Report presented to the National Research council 
of Thailand, Bangkok."

Rashid, Mohd Razha and Pauline H. Walker.  1981.  THE KAREN PEOPLE: AN
	INTRODUCTION. (Asian Folklore and Social Monographs Volume 105.  
	Taipei, Taiwan: The Chinese Association for Folklore. 

Renard, Ronald D. Ruthjaporn Prachadetsuwat, Soe Moe.  1991.  SOME NOTES ON
	THE KAREN AND THEIR MUSIC.  Chiang Mai: Center for the Arts and
	Culture, Payap University.

Zan, U.  n.d.  "History of the Karen Church in Thailand," translated by Thra
	Thogkham Songsaeng. Payap University Archives, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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Typical Interim Day

Golfing in Thailand

Golfing in Thailand

Typical Interim Day

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Interviews in village

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Field Trips

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Karen House

Karen House

Village Visits

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Mike in Thailand

Mike in Thailand

1995 Demographic Facts from Different Government Resources in Thailand

Villages (Karen-Thai)			Houses	Families	Population/Ave								

+ Tee Mae Ker Ler -- Nong Chet Noi	  76		  82		365   	 4.8
O Wa Su Ko Khee--Hwuih Bong	  	  35		  40		177  	 3.3
+ No Dae Law--Ban Mai Phattana	  	  13		  15		65	 5.0
= Pla Doe -- Ban Din			  74		  77		425   	 5.7
+ Maw Tar -- Chaem Luang		  34		  39		360  	10.6
= Maw Day -- Kiau Pong		  	  31		  34		180  	 5.8
= Sa Kaw Lu -- San Muang 		  44		  44		328   	 7.5
O Kho Kaw Tee -- Wat Chan		  88		  90		896  	10.2
= Kloe Klo -- Naklaet Hoi		  23		  25		186  	 8.1
= Nya Su Klo -- Hwuih Ya		  34		  36		170  	 5.0
+ Paw Hser Kee -- Hwuih Tong	  	  96		 112		300  	 3.1

+ All Christian
= Mixed Christian/Buddhist/Animist
O Buddhist or Animist

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Wat Jet Yod

Wat Jet Yod

Typical Day in City

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Wat Doi Suthep

Wat Doi Suthep

City Interviews

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Solar Eclipse and King's Statue

Solar Eclipse and King's Statue

City Visit-Field Trips

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