The importance of Thanaka: narrative and human rights in Burma

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Conway-Herron, J 2007, 'The importance of Thanaka: narrative and human rights in Burma', in J Webb & J Williams (eds), Proceedings of the 12th conference of the AAWP, Australian Association of Writing Programs, Canberra, ACT. ISBN: 9780980757309

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In his address to the International Parliament of Writers in Strasbourg, 1996, Derrida proposes ‘an audacious call for a genuine innovation in the history of the right to asylum or the duty of hospitality’. Here cosmopolitanism characterises the International Parliament of Writers call for the opening of refugee cities across the world. In 2007 we have more than 40 million refugees worldwide and in Australia our Indigenous peoples have become internally displaced persons, making their own hospitality a tragic paradox. On February 1 this year I flew to Bangkok Thailand, to run writing workshops with Burmese women refugees. The women were preparing to submit work to the sixth edition of Burma Women's Voices, a publication supported by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. These anthologies focus on the stories of women's experiences living within Burma and as refugees. In this paper I will use the background of over forty years of military oppression in Burma to show the ways in which narrative and advocacy have been important factors in Burma women giving voice and how this has created positive steps towards reconciliation, healing and education in their lives.

Additional information

Dr Janie Conway-Herron has been a lecturer in creative writing at Southern Cross University for the last 10 years. Janie is a novelist, poet, musician, lyricist and scriptwriter and her work has been published in a number of journals and anthologies. Recently returned from conducting creative writing workshops with Burmese women refugees for Altsean Burma, her work reflects her passion for human rights and explores landscapes of identity in both an historical and contemporary context. Her novels Stories and Secrets and Spotlighting are currently being considered for publication. She is working on a third novel, Looking for Elsie due to be completed in 2009.