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Speaker: Edith Mirante, Author of “The Wind in the Bamboo”
Author/activist Edith Mirante presents a slideshow related to her latest book, “The Wind in the Bamboo: A Journey in Search of Asia’s ‘Negrito’ Indigenous People” which is about the survival of Asian ethnic groups which had been classified as a separate race because of their “African” appearance and considered doomed to vanish. Called “savage pygmies” and “hideous dwarfs,” sold into slavery, exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, nearly exterminated by disease and a cataclysmic volcano, these extraordinary people now survive as forest hunter gatherers in a few places: mainland Malaysia, the Philippines and India’s Andaman Islands. Some are still armed with spears and blowpipes, a few with cellphones and graduate degrees. They were subjected to the Victorian camera’s eye and the calipers of craniometry, and now their DNA is analyzed for clues to early human migrations. Mirante has written about their contemporary lives and ancestral significance. The slideshow features historical images and her own photographs, with an emphasis on the indigenous peoples’ adaptive modern foraging cultures, issues of ethnic identity and ongoing forest land rights struggles.
Edith Mirante has roamed Asia since the early 1980s, collecting information on human rights and environmental issues. In 1986 she founded Project Maje, an independent information project on Burma and she has testified before the US Congress, European Trade Commission and International Labor Organization. She has lectured at United Nations and Amnesty International events. Mirante is the author of “Burmese Looking Glass: A Human Rights Adventure” and “Down the Rat Hole: Adventures Underground on Burma’s Frontiers” in addition to “The Wind in the Bamboo” which she researched with travel in Malaysia, India and the Philippines. She is also the author of reports, book chapters and articles about Southeast Asia, deforestation and refugees. Her Project Maje archive of Burma materials is in the Yale Library Southeast Asia Collection. The LA Times has called her writing “a contribution to the literature of human rights and to the literature of high adventure.”