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On the continuing relevance of E. R. Leach's political systems of Highland Burma to Kachin studies

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Chapter Summary

Sir Edmund Leach’s study of Kachin social structure appeared as Political Systems of Highland Burma in 1954, and proceeded to have substantial influence over the study of human society and culture. There are indications that it may well have been one of the most widely read works among published anthropological literature during the second half of the twentieth century. This chapter provides an overview of the reaction, spanning the last fifty years. It begins with the observation that by 1960, Kachin concerns had gelled into a coherent set of issues to address, and that out of that consensus grew a research agenda that has been maintained, to the extent possible, since then. The second observation that is made early in the chapter is that it is written from the perspective of a person who has been part of the Leach-Kachin story since 1954.

Keywords: E. R. Leach; Kachin; Political Systems of Highland Burma



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