SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Yangon Echoes: Inside heritage homes

IMG - 20160524 - Virginia Henderson
Dr Virginia Henderson & Mr Tim Webster, authors, independent

Date: 24 May 2016Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 24 May 2016Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


This oral history research celebrates the contribution of the many different people who have made their homes in Yangon and investigates what has happened in Yangon over time through the lens of domestic life. It amplifies unheard personal stories of home and change, and reveals the pressures on this city’s people and its heritage today.

The cultural fabric and shaping of Yangon is explored through stories told by inhabitants who know some of the city’s heritage places as home. This is a popular history of buildings, charting social space and urban folklore.

Many of Yangon’s antique buildings and the stories that go with them are being erased in the rush to modernise. In this research, storytellers share thoughts and feelings of living through the country’s emergence from decades of stagnation to engagement with a rapidly spinning world.
The human impacts of commercial and bureaucratic intervention in an all-but-unregulated sector are introduced. Consequences of the confiscation of private enterprise by the military government are explored. Holding onto one’s home has become a matter of survival. To stay or go, to rebuild or maintain may appear matters of choice, yet such choices are often ephemeral.

Establishing facts about Yangon’s heritage homes, such as dates of construction, names of their architects and original occupants, confronts an acute lack of resources. Elders are valuable heritage repositories, their stories representing precious local wisdom, a pool of living memories. Read as a collection, these tales sometimes support yet often subvert established versions of history.

Speaker Biograghies

Virginia Henderson collaborates with local communities and development agencies to facilitate and document cultural projects. An oral historian, she has a doctorate in heritage management.

Photographer and writer Tim Webster has a background in archival heritage documentation, education and physics.

Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4893