Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Anthropology, Manchester University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Cornell University
Cultivating Transformation in Burma/Myanmar: Ideals, Knowledge, and Capacity Building Trainings by a Japanese NGO

My project asks: How do international humanitarian and development interventions today increasingly work upon the individual as a site of global governance and transformation? Humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) today emphasize the importance of "capacity building"-that is, the cultivation of local individuals with certain ideals, often religiously-derived, and secular technical NGO skills such as project management and documentary practices. This trend is particularly salient in countries such as Burma/Myanmar, where a military government restricts external aid interventions and thus the training of local aid workers is seen as the most effective way to enable social betterment. My project bridges studies that have analyzed the practices of knowledge and those that have examined the formulation of ideals in NGO work to investigate how NGOs in Burma/Myanmar mobilize commitments to religiously-based ideals and translate them to secular practices through technical knowledge in trainings for local humanitarian workers. Moreover, I examine how local and international NGO staff as well as training participants experience these activities as forms of governance or hopeful moments of transformation. I will focus on a training program for local farmer youth in Burma/Myanmar by the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement (OISCA), a Japanese NGO whose mission is global sustainable development, and rooted in a Shinto-derived new religious movement. I will use textual analysis, ethnographic participation, and person-centered ethnography to conduct a multi-sited research across Japan and Burma/Myanmar to elucidate the effects of transnational efforts to transform persons on global forms of social change and governance.