The category of rebellion has held a special place in the epistemological construction of Southeast Asian culture, as studies of anti-colonial movements and their underlying ideological foundations have revealed strikingly similar modes for articulating protest. In particular, the combination of religion with resistance has endured as a useful framework for not only understanding how particular Southeast Asians may have conceptualised the historical processes associated with colonialism, but for how ‘autonomous’ vocabularies remained intact and available to rural communities in times of crisis. Among the several regional cases, British Burma's Saya San rebellion (1930–32) has emerged in scholarship as a quintessential example of one such social movement where protest was articulated through a mixture of millenarian expectations, ritual and Buddhist sensibilities. This study explores the role of scholarship in the historical construction of Saya San and retraces the interpretive strategies that link the various ways in which the rebellion has been imagined. Though different understandings of the Saya San rebellion have been offered since the 1930s, the remains of colonial administrative rule lay deeply embedded in this scholarship.
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