At Yangon University, Tharaphi Than has been testing out the new methodology developed under the Humanities across Borders programme with the students. They explored items of cultural significance—from tea, betel quids, cheroot to thanakha—from various perspectives.
Previously, the first-year students of the new South-East Asian Languages and Cultures programme at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan also tested the new HaB methodology, learning about Myanmar by exploring Burmese food items on Huaxin Street in Taipei city. However, according to Tharaphi, the students at Yangon University faced a different set of challenges:
For the YU students, it was another level of challenge, since the HaB methodology not only challenges the existing methodologies that silence human voices in favor of structural or policy explanations emphasizing nation builders and high achievers, but also challenges the injustice (to the students, disciplines and communities) enabled by such hegemonic approaches. It was a ground-breaking experiment made possible by the courage of the head of the department and we both are willing to continue with this experiment.
One of the items of Burmese culture explored by the students at YU was thanakha, a cosmetic paste made from tree bark that is traditionally applied to the face and arms of women and children, and that still holds deep cultural significance today. They examined the customs and beliefs around the use of thanakha, people’s relationship to it in modern Myanmar society, as well as its history and economic significance.
Their presentation on thanakha can be viewed at the following link: Thanakha and Modern Myanmar Society