Current Institutional Affiliation
Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California / Berkeley

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Development Sociology, Cornell University
Making Myanmar: Struggles over Land on Asia’s Last Frontier

Since elections in November 2015 brought an end to decades of military dictatorship in Myanmar, historically-contested questions of who has rights to land and how it should be developed have become crucial to the nation's political and economic future. As farmers and developers claim and contest land, state and civil society actors are rushing to create policies and rural development projects that advance new visions for a productive, modern Myanmar. This project investigates how state actors, members of a new cosmopolitan civil society, and ethnic-majority and –minority farmers are struggling for land in a moment of rapid social change. Over 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork across three sites in Myanmar, I will observe the way different actors navigate global influences, institutional and agrarian histories, and uneven social relations to negotiate new policies, programs and uses of land. Specifically, this research asks: (1) How are government actors creating new land policies and revising old ones, and in so doing how are they reworking the very nature of the state? (2) How are members of a new cosmopolitan civil society in Yangon enacting diverse ideas of a modern, democratic nation through efforts to improve rural landscapes and livelihoods? (3) How are farmers negotiating new land policies and development projects, and in what ways are these negotiations reshaping their relationships to land and the state? My approach and answers to these questions will contribute to contemporary scholarly debates on state formation, development, and agrarian change as well as to interdisciplinary Burma and Southeast Asian Studies.