UMD 25: Education amid Renunciation

The Movement of Young Ta’ang Girls from Conflict Areas to Mandalay’s Nunneries

This research provides an look at the recent phenomenon of young nuns from remote Ta’ang villages in Shan State traveling to stay in nunneries in urban Mandalay, where they fully renunciate into the tradition led by their elder nuns and undertake their general education in monastic schools. The decades-old conflict has only worsened, devastating the tea industry and leading to outward migration, constant insecurity, threat of conscription, rampant underdevelopment, and the destruction of most educational access. In this context the Ta’ang girls come to the city seeking opportunity in the nunneries, and education in monastic schools. This research reflects the experiences of the girls, the motivations that brought them to Mandalay, the networks which facilitate their movement, and their processes of adaptation in these new spaces as non-Burmans and non-Burmese speakers who arrive unfamiliar with monastic life, the urban environment, or Myanmar popular culture. In tracing these dynamics, this research offers an insight into both the phenomenon itself and what this suggests about the role of the often invisible and underrecognized network of nuns in Myanmar amid the failure of the state to provide essential welfare and education as conflict continues in the hills.

Publication date: February 2022