"Being in the Karen village has been so wonderful- to be in such a unique place and have preconceived ideas about what their life is like, then totally being blown away by their hospitality and love. Be prepared to leave all expectations behind and flow with the tide of what God has for you."

-Jenna Nordberg, Gordon College, SST 2005


ANTH 263:

The Karen of Northern Thailand

Taught by Dr. Michael R. Leming

4 Semester Credits

While taking this course from April 1- 30, students will be housed at the Hilltribe Resources and Development Center in a hostel located in Ban Mai Phattana. The village is located 120 miles from Chiang Mai. During this time we will interview village leaders (headmen, pastors, shamen, Sahamit School teachers, and a variety of village elders). Students attend a number of village events and ceremonies. We will also visit Hmong and Lisu villages, at least ten Karen villages, and have the opportunity for short home stays with village people.

Course Description:
Through interviews with tribal leaders and village residents and the reading of written materials concerning the Sgaw Karen, students will gain an understanding of the Karen people. The Karen are facing rapid cultural assimilation due to pressures from the dominant culture and social institutions of Thailand, and from trends toward global homogenization shaped by increasing activity of multinational corporations and the spread of Western culture to previously more isolated peoples of the world. Students taking this class will live near the Sgaw Karen village of Tee Mae Ker Lah, situated 120 miles northwest of Chiang Mai (Thailand's second largest city).

Academic Requirements :
After having taken three courses in Chiang Mai (Thai Language, Thai Culture and Society, and the Internship Course), students will understand the larger Thai society that is attempting to assimilate the Karen people. During the month of April students will take up residency in the village of Tee Mae Ker Lah, located 120 miles into the foothills of the Himalayas. During this month students will gather empirical data on Karen family, religious, political, economic, and educational institutions. They will also attempt to understand how changes within the larger Thai society and world have affected the lives of people in the village.

While in the village, students will receive group and individualized instruction as they write an ethnographic paper on the structure, functions, and changes that have taken place in one of the following social institutions: family, religion, or education. In gathering information for these papers, students will have group access and personal interviews (assisted by interpreters) with village leaders, pastors, educators, and the village headman and tribal elders.