Thingyan: Translating the invented tradition of the Burmese Water Festival
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This thesis is a comparative analysis of the translation of the invented tradition known in English speaking countries as the Burmese Water Festival or thingyan. It will determine how thingyan is considered an invented tradition, including the mythology surrounding its original cultural context. To determine thingyan's status as an invented tradition requires the use of E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger's established definition of invented tradition. The invention of thingyan, determining its original cultural context and the elements leading to the invention, provides a foundation from which the festival can be further analyzed. The elements, or factors, of thingyan's invention changed over the centuries. The thesis will look at the relationship between the factors of thingyan's invention and its adaptability over time. There are three distinct forms of invented tradition that Hobsbawm and Ranger established; all three provide the grounds for closer investigation of the last two centuries (1824 to 2014) during which time Burma underwent severe political, social, cultural and economic change. These changes led to the displacement of several cultural practices, including thingyan . This thesis will endeavor to answer the following questions about displaced cultural practices: How does the cultural practice of the thingyan festival change in a new cultural context? How is the process of translation different in Burma, Australia and the United States (Mandalay, Melbourne, and Buffalo, New York)? What is required for its acceptance? In investigating and answering these questions, the thesis will prove that translation allows the festival to enter a new cultural context by entering a conversation between the Burmese community and the new dominant community. Walter Benjamin, Paul Ricoeur, and Jacques Derrida provide a theoretical context within which the translation of thingyan can be analyzed. Inherent within a translation is the concept of hospitality; cultural hospitality facilitates the necessary conversation between two peoples in order to establish a new cultural practice, like the Burmese Water Festival, in a new dominant culture.