Contentious Citizenship in Myanmar

Gerry van Klinken is at the KITLV (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies) in Leiden and a JCA author. His latest for the journal is a review of the book Citizenship in Myanmar: Ways of Being In and From Burma, edited by JCA authors Ashley South and Marie Lall and published by ISEAS in Singapore in 2017.

In the review, van Klinken notes how far Myanmar has come and regressed in a short time. The country continues to surprise and disappoint observers. Citizenship in Myanmar does a lot, he says,

to make Myanmar less opaque. It takes the striking decision to consider Myanmar as a citizenship problem. Unlike so many books about the country, this one is not about the military, ceasefires in ethnic regions, China versus the US, crony capitalists or the Golden Triangle. It is not even about democracy and human rights. It is about ordinary citizens.

This focus may be striking but citizenship is “a fabulous lens on Myanmar’s intractable problems, because it starts and ends with those all too often invisible people that the country’s politics are ultimately about.”

There’s the unevenness of edited collections evident, but van Klinken finds much to commend and likes that the book is full of contention making it a pioneering study which he sees as “just the beginning of an exciting and comparative venture in which ordinary
citizens once more gain a voice.”

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