News Release

REF NO.: 117

SUBJECT: The Sound of Political Change in Myanmar topic of public lecture

DATE: February 26, 2015

Ethnomusicologist and Southeast Asian specialist Dr. Gavin Douglas will present a public talk titled The Sound of Political Change in Myanmar as part of Memorial University’s Research Centre for Music, Media and Place (MMaP) Lecture Series.

The event takes place Tuesday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the MMaP Gallery on the second floor of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.

The past two decades have witnessed tremendous political unrest in Burma/Myanmar. Minority separatist movements, economic stagnation, chronic detention of political prisoners and a multitude of other obstacles have plagued the history of this once prosperous nation. The detention of pro-democracy icon and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi between 1990 and 2010 compounded a crisis of political legitimacy and brought this forgotten country back into international news circles. Today, the country struggles to redefine itself as new opportunities and struggles present themselves. Focusing on a wide variety of cases, Dr. Douglas’ presentation will question the role music has played in this tumultuous history.

“Not simply reflective of society, the role of music in Myanmar’s politics is not neutral but has been tied to the policies of the oppressing dictatorship and the pro-democracy resistance movements,” said Dr. Douglas.

“From national unity festivals to monastic revolutions and from education policy to pro-democracy Internet campaigns, music has been a tool to both justify oppression and demand liberation and has been an active force in Myanmar’s struggles.”

Dr. Douglas is associate professor of ethnomusicology and head of the Music Studies Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He holds bachelor degrees in classical guitar performance and philosophy from Queen’s University, a master’s of music in ethnomusicology from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington.

His research interests include cross-cultural aesthetics, nationalism, politics and globalization. Dr. Douglas’s primary research area is in Burma/Myanmar where he has studied the role of music in both reinforcing and challenging the authority of the state. His recent work focuses on the ethnic minorities of the highlands and on Buddhist musical practices. His book Music in Mainland Southeast Asia explores cultural diversity, political trauma and globalization across Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In addition to writing about music he plays guitar, Irish flute and Burmese harp.

The lecture is sponsored by Memorial University, in collaboration with the School of Music. The lecture is free; all are welcome.

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