Human Rights Discourses in Myanmar

Amy Doffegnies

The Vernacularization of Human Rights Discourse in Myanmar: Rejection, Hybridization and Strategic Avoidance” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2020.1865432) is a new article at JCA, authored by independent scholar Amy Doffegnies and Tamas Wells from the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne.

Tamas Wells

The article comes out at a significant time, with the Myanmar military staging a coup.

The abstract for the article states:

Violence against Muslim minority communities in Myanmar has brought the issue of human rights to international and domestic attention. Burmese democratic leaders, activists and Buddhist monks have attracted sharp international criticism for their seemingly neglectful responses to widespread human rights violations. Yet little attention has been directed towards understanding how these leaders make sense of “human rights.” This article argues that the shift in international attention from the problem of military authoritarianism to the marginalisation of religious minorities precipitated new ways in which human rights has been given meaning by Burmese Buddhist political and religious leaders. Examining their use of human rights language through interviews conducted between 2016 and 2017, we highlight contrasting responses to “human rights.” Some respondents rejected human rights language outright, while others imparted the phrase with their own meaning, presenting a variety of hybridised visions of human rights that sometimes supported, rather than opposed, the exclusion of Muslim minorities. Finally, others strategically avoided human rights language as they sought to promote human rights aims amidst popular rejection of the discourse. These findings highlight the importance, for actors seeking to promote human rights in Myanmar, of sensitivity towards divergent meanings of human rights.

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