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Stories from an Ancient Land: Perspectives on Wa History and Culture

Thursday, March 17, 2022 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Virtual Event

 The Wa people, who live between Burma and China, undercut many stereotypes about primitive mountain-folks. They are often labelled headhunters, but Magnus Fiskesjö’s new book,  Stories from an Ancient Land: Perspectives on Wa History and Culture (Berghahn Books, 2021), confirms that taking head trophies is actually a recent borrowing from the Chinese army, where it was standard war practice, not a “primitive custom.” Also, the Wa were never isolated, but rather deeply integrated in the world economy for centuries—opium was a major export industry which helped sustain their independence until their ancient lands were annexed by Burma and China. Perhaps above all, the Wa people's fierce egalitarianism, their rejection of kings and hierarchies, as well as their deeply entrenched, armed autonomy based on their surprising wealth, pose a real challenge to the usual typologies of politics and economy.

Join Fiskesjö in a live, virtual Chats in the Stacks talk as he discusses his new book.

Sponsored by Olin Library, the talk is followed by a live Q&A.

Fiskesjö is an associate professor of anthropology at Cornell University. His research engages ethnohistory, fieldwork, archival research, and social theories, and explores ethnic relations, ethno-politics, our fantasies of civilizations and barbarians as well as history and heritage issues in East and Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America.

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Author Appearance


Cornell University Library, Anthropology, Olin Library, Southeast Asia Program, East Asia Program


cascal, Cornell University Library, Anthropology, book talk, anthro, olin library, SEAP, Southeast Asia Program


Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Peggy Tully


Magnus Fiskesjö

Speaker Affiliation

Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

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Free and open to the public

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