Jadeite is one of the most valuable gemstones in the world, yet its value is created largely by its importance within the cultural region of eastern Asia, particularly in China. The most valuable form is mined outside this zone, in northern Myanmar, in what is identified as South East Asia. As the stone moves across borders and into different cultural and linguistic landscapes, its meanings shift. What can storytelling expressed through the life stories of those connected with this commodity reveal about the nature of boundaries and borders? And what does this teach us about the challenges of conducting research that transgresses traditional Area Studies boundaries? This paper will consider a project that brought together research teams from Myanmar and from China who conducted more than 100 life stories from the mines in Myanmar to upscale sales rooms in China. It raises important questions about the challenges of communicating knowledge across Areas, the degree to which the political is embedded in both the public and the private worlds of ‘ordinary’ lives, and the morphing of history into literature in the act of translation. All of these transgressions emphasise the value of deep, place-based knowledge at the heart of both traditional and new Area Studies, but that moving Area Studies forward involves more attention to what happens when Areas become entangled rather than simply juxtaposed.
How to Cite:
Sadan, M., Yü, D.S. and Dan, S.L., 2021. Researching Life Stories of the Myanmar-China Jadeite Trade. New Area Studies, 2(1), pp.39–73.