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Life through unmascaraed eyes & homes away home

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Chu (she/they) is an (un)thropologist and a first-gen Burmese diasporic writer-translator currently based in the traditional, ancestral, and historical land of Ho-Chunk and Menominee peoples, or now known as Wisconsin.
 
As an (auto)ethnographer, Chu enjoys reflexively pondering upon her own encounters in life in juxtaposition to a broader cultural and social infrastructure(s). As she pays attention to the actual things people say, they are also intrigued by many unspoken cues in people's gestures and manners. If the world is, as Burmese people would say, bawa zatkhone (theater-stage of life), all human beings would be storytellers in their own ways and Chu's job as an (un)thropologist is to ethically retell their (and her own) stories.

Born and raised in Yangon, Myanmar and currently a migrant in the US, Chu is infatuated with the stories of diasporic kinship, belonging, and refusal towards their newly adapted ways of life. As a writer and an (un)thropologist, both her scholarly and non-scholarly works engage with the concepts of temporal positionalities, intense feelings, and shifting materialities in attempting to understand what it means to be a human.

Chu's doctoral dissertation titled "Intense Engagements: Social Media Activism in the Aftermath of the 2021 Military Coup in Myanmar" looks at the ways in which ordinary people's political engagement is fueled by circulation of certain public feelings on social media spaces in the aftermath of the 2021 military coup in Myanmar. She is interested in exploring how the intense circulation of images and speech interpellating their viewers and listeners to what is and is not acceptable in contemporary Burmese political life.

 
Chu's broader research interests encompass public feelings, social media, mediation, digital labor, visual culture, and gender. Their theoretical specializations include prior graduate trainings in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, and doctoral trainings in feminist anthropology, urban ethnography, semiotics, discourse studies, diaspora studies, and feminist affect theories. Outside the walls of the academy, she dabbles into theories and conversations about decoloniality and abolitionism.
 
In addition to scholarly works, Chu is passionate about approaching her interests from experimental and collaborative perspectives. In 2020, they co-founded a virtual research collective called Aruna Global South as a space for emerging scholars and thinkers working in, on, and from Asian Global South who have been systematically marginalized in the spaces of knowledge production.
 
As a feminist decolonial scholar, Chu believes that the personal is truly the political. To invert the masculinist and ableist demands of producing knowledge in anthropology and in academia, they primarily use analytic autoethnography and patchwork ethnography in her works. When she is not challenging her own privileged background within the context of Myanmar as an ethno-religious majority Bama-Buddhist woman now situated in the US empire, she writes against whiteness and neocoloniality in higher education.

Her writings in Burmese under the pen name Ma Chinthe are underpinned by their intellectual interests in decolonization, abolitionism, and gender in Myanmar and its diaspora. Her debut essay collection titled Beyond the Wall of Words and Other Essays (စာတံတိုင်းကိုကျော်လွန်၍နှင့် အခြားဆောင်းပါးများ) was published by Independent Pin Yai / Yerba Press in 2023. Chu is currently working on a collection of translated essays by BIPOC scholars and theorists from English to Burmese.

Fun Fact about Chu: in her mother('s) language Burmese, their first name Chu has three meanings: coin money, floral arabesque (like the ones in the photo above), or stylized lion with a flowing mane. She picks the last meaning because lion with a flowing mane symbolizes, to her, strength, independence, and fierceness, all three qualities they aspire to emulate!

Editor in Chief

Aruna Global South

Non-profit Organization

December 2023 - present

Co-director

Aruna Global South

Non-profit Organization

December 2020 - December 2023

Social Media Committee Lead
 Department of Anthropology

University of Colorado Boulder

August 2019 - August 2020

Graduate Teaching Assistant
Department of Linguistics

University of Colorado Boulder

August 2017 - May 2019


Program Director
Literacy Practicum Program

University of Colorado Boulder
August 2017 - May 2019

 

PhD in Cultural Anthropology
Department of Anthropology

University of Colorado Boulder

May 2024

MA in Cultural Anthropology
Department of Anthropology

University of Colorado Boulder

December 2020


BA in General Linguistics
Queens College,

City University of New York

May 2017

AA in Secondary Education
LaGuardia Community College,

City University of New York

August 2015

Fellowships

2023 - 2024

Honorary Associate Fellow

Center for Southeast Asian Studies

University of Wisconsin Madison

2019 - 2024

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

2019 - 2020

Council of American Overseas Research Center Inya Institute

Pre-dissertation Research Grant

2019 - 2020

Southeast Asian Research Group

Pre-dissertation Research Grant

2017 - 2022

University of Colorado Boulder

Diversity, Equity, and Community Fellowship

2020 - 2021

University of Colorado Boulder

CU Engage Arts and Humanities Fellowship

Contact

1350 Pleasant St, 233 UCB

Boulder CO 80309

chu.paing@colorado.edu

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Chu May Paing & Than Toe Aung (2021) Talking back to white "Burma Experts."

Agitate Journal.

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Chu May Paing (2020) Ethnography: Rethinking from the Interstice. The New Ethnographer.

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Chu May Paing (2020) In Need of Daughters of Good Lineage: Placing Gender in Myanmar's Buddhist Nationalist Discourse. Journal of Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Special Issue.

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Chu May Paing (2020) Viral Satire as Public Feeling in Myanmar. In "Pandemic Diaries: Affect and Crisis," Carla Jones (ed). American Ethnologist Website. May 20 2020.

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Chu May Paing (2018) To Know a Batha: Family Language Soicalization among Burmese Buddhist Immigrant Families in New York City. Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement 13 (1).

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