News and Communal Violence in Myanmar

A fifth article in a forthcoming special issue on Interpreting Communal Violence in Myanmar, guest edited by Nick Cheesman, is available at the JCA publisher’s site for the journal.

Producing the News: Reporting on Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1303078) is authored by Lisa Brooten of the Department of Radio, Television and Digital Media, Southern Illinois University and Yola Verbruggen, an independent journalist based in Yangon.

The abstract for the article states:

Since communal violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in 2012 between Buddhist and Muslim communities, the plight of the Rohingya Muslims has received much media attention both inside and outside of the country. Rarely, however, do we get critical analyses of how such reporting is constructed. Research on communal conflict and journalism tends to focus on the how-to of conflict-sensitive reporting and the dangers of employing local fixers and interpreters whose influence is seen to reduce the objectivity of news, rather than on the actual news gathering strategies used in specific conflicts. Based on personal observations of a freelance reporter in Myanmar, and interviews with journalists and “fixers” working in the country, this article analyses the news production processes in reporting on the conflict. The article maps out the various actors involved in the production of news, such as foreign and local journalists, local producers (the “fixers”) and interpreters, and the various challenges and limitations they face. These challenges function to perpetuate a familiar set of reporting routines and “us vs them” or binary narratives, with consequences for the de-escalation or perpetuation of the conflict.

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Communal Violence in Myanmar: Roundtable Discussion

Readers in the USA may find the following Roundtable of interest, involving Nick Cheesman, the guest editor of a forthcoming special issue of the journal bearing the same title and contributor to that issue,  Matt Schissler of the Anthropology Department at Michigan University, among others.

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Michigan University presents the Roundtable.

Monday, March 27, 2017, 12:00-1:30 PM
Room 1636 School of Social Work Building

Details: Since 2012, Myanmar has experienced recurrent, sporadic, collective acts of lethal violence, realized through repeated public expressions that Muslims constitute an existential threat to Buddhists. Much of this has been directed at those who identify as Rohingya, but it has not been limited to this category. The panelists discuss the narratives, genealogies and typologies of this violence, drawing on scholarship from South and Southeast Asia.

Panelists: Nick Cheesman, Fellow, Department of Political & Social Change Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, 2016-17 Member of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study

Mike McGovern Associate Professor, Anthropology & Director of Undergraduate Studies, University of Michigan

Matt Schissler Doctoral Student in Anthropology, University of Michigan

Moderated by Allen Hicken, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan


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Chinese in Rangoon

Elaine L.E. Ho of the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore has contributed a new review of Mapping Chinese Rangoon: Place and Nation among the Sino-Burmese (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1301983).

This book is authored by Jayde Lin Roberts  and the book is published by the University of Washington Press.

Ho observes that the book “fills a lacuna in knowledge on immigration and settlement in Myanmar (or Burma). While much academic attention has been paid to ethnic minority struggles in military ruled Myanmar, the situation of immigrant communities, such as the Sino-Burmese discussed in Jayde Roberts’ study, has been subsumed by the aforementioned scholarship.”

She says the book “is a valuable resource for readers seeking to understand how Myanmar has evolved politically and socially. The rich ethnographic vignettes that Roberts shares provide readers with rare insights from the perspective of the Sino-Burmese who are one of the key communities inhabiting and shaping the city of Rangoon. The book integrates knowledge from urban planning with that of cultural geography, and will appeal to readers seeking to deepen their understanding of Burma studies and/or overseas Chinese studies.”

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Global China

In a new review available at the JCA publisher’s website, Kosmas Tsokhas reviews The Global Rise of China (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1300832) by Alvin Y. So and Yin-wah Chu, published by Polity Press.

Tsokhas begins by noting that So and Chu explore “the phenomenal economic transformation of China, … [and] provide a ‘state-centered explanation’ when they argue that the ‘communist party-state’ released or constrained marketisation by means of ‘state neoliberalism’.”

Their discussion of the challenges faced by the Communist party-state, “So and Chu reiterate that, although what remains of the socialist economy has dwindled and diminished, state neo-liberalism will continue to proceed by adaptations and adjustments, by speed-ups and slow-downs, which will be complicated by the interdependence between provincial and local authorities and their business supporters.”

He concludes his review noting that:

To date, China’s global and regional geo-political future is uncertain and may involve brinkmanship in Asia with the US and its allies, even though some of them have started to hedge between the US and China. While a majority of Chinese respondents to surveys share nationalist attitudes and have confidence in the regime’s ability to get economic results and to improve living standards, there is evidence of disquiet over income inequality, unfair working conditions, arbitrary land expropriations, administrative corruption and environmental degradation that lead to “mass incidents.” So, to paraphrase the authors, the Communist Party-state will still need to deflect, pre-empt, institutionalise, or, as a last resort, repress social conflict and civil unrest.

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Islam and the State in Myanmar

In a new review at JCA, Iza R. Hussin of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge looks at the collection Islam and the State in Myanmar: Muslim-Buddhist Relations and the Politics of Belonging (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1292361), edited by Melissa Crouch and published by Oxford University Press.

The reviewer notes that the collection seeks to raise questions about the “politics of belonging” and Muslim interactions with the state in a Buddhist society. It provides multi-disciplinary perspectives on these issues from a range of scholars. The collection is described as useful for rich empirical material that will be of interest for Southeast Asian studies, students of religion, politics and society, and comparative politics scholars.

The book is organised in several parts. Part I begins by tracing the separation of the identity of “Muslim” from that of “Burmese.” Part II presents new material on “the everyday politics of belonging” and Part III addresses humanitarian, security and safety issues.

Many of the chapters indicate that understanding Islam in Myanmar requires a rethinking of Buddhist politics and nationalism. Others point out the new ways in which long-standing symbols, language and institutions are deployed in the wake of social change.

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Defining National Races

A fourth article in a forthcoming special issue on Interpreting Communal Violence in Myanmar, guest edited by Nick Cheesman, is available at the JCA publisher’s site for the journal.

It is guest editor Cheesman’s own article “How in Myanmar “National Races” Came to Surpass Citizenship and Exclude Rohingya” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1297476).

The abstract for the article states:

The idea of “national races” or taingyintha has animated brutal conflict in Myanmar over who or what is “Rohingya.” But because the term is translated from Burmese inconsistently, and because its usage is contingent, its peculiar significance for political speech and action has been lost in work on Myanmar by scholars writing in English. Out of concern that Myanmar’s contemporary politics cannot be understood without reckoning with taingyintha, in this article I give national races their due. Adopting a genealogical method, I trace the episodic emergence of taingyintha from colonial times to the present. I examine attempts to order national races taxonomically, and to marry the taxonomy with a juridical project to dominate some people and elide others through a citizenship regime in which membership in a national race has surpassed other conditions for membership in the political community “Myanmar.” Consequently, people who reside in Myanmar but are collectively denied citizenship – like anyone identifying or identified as Rohingya – pursue claims to be taingyintha so as to rejoin the community. Ironically, the surpassing symbolic and juridical power of national races is for people denied civil and political rights at once their problem and their solution.

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The Karen and Education

Learning, Migration and Intergenerational Relations: The Karen and the Gift of Education by Pia Joliffe is published in London by Palgrave Macmillan.

This new book is reviewed at JCA (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2017.1297477) by Shirley Worland of the Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University in Thailand and the Australian Catholic University.

Worland observes that the book “offers a new insight into a particular ethnic group’s engagement with education” as it follows young Karen children from  Thailand and Myanmar, “from the highland to lowland areas, from Myanmar to displaced communities on the Thailand-Myanmar border and from those displaced communities to new lives as resettled refugees in the United Kingdom.” The reviewer says that a “particular strength of this book is the way the concept of education as a gift is represented in personal stories.”

Worland commends the author “for her detailed historical research regarding the provision of education in Myanmar and Thailand by Buddhist, Christian, government, community-based and NGO organisations since the 16th century…”. The book is said to have wide appeal due to the “author’s ability to combine academic and narrative genres…”.

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