Creating Pan-Karen Identity: The Wrist Tying Ceremony in the United States
Asian and Pacific Migration Journal
A movement to unite all Karen-language speaking people under the banner of a distinct and unified Karen identity has been afoot for more than a century. Buddhist and Christian Karens from Burma, now living in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, are forging – and contesting – a universal Karen identity through the celebration of the “traditional” wrist tying ceremony. This articulation of pan-Karen identity is an example of Baumann and Gingrich's (2004) theory of identity construction, which they call a “grammar of encompassment.” This case study shows that the theory, which claims that instances of encompassment are often contested by the encompassed (that is, the subordinate people whose alterity is denied), must be extended. In the United States, it is the encompassers (that is, the Christians who have greater economic and political power) who are the most deeply troubled by the denial of difference demanded by the discourse of encompassment.
MacLachlan, Heather, "Creating Pan-Karen Identity: The Wrist Tying Ceremony in the United States" (2012). Music Faculty Publications. 28.