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Ethnicity in Burma: The end of crisis?



Since before Burma's independence from Britain in 1948 questions of ethnic self-determination, autonomy and secession have peppered discussions of the country’s prospects. With over 100 ethnic and linguistic minority groups making up around 30 per cent of the population, there is no shortage of claims for political and cultural rights founded in ethnicity. In response, Burma’s governments have struggled to manage a self-perpetuating “crisis”: they have feared that concessions to one ethnic group will lead to the fragmentation of the country as a whole. Equity and peace in ethnic minority areas has thus proved elusive. Six decades of festering civil war have followed, with countless casualties and human rights outrages. The pervasive impression of impending national doom has proven beneficial to governments seeking to justify heavy-handed counter-insurgency campaigns. In the decades since 1988, ceasefire agreements with ethnic armies have complicated the situation. While many of Burma’s civil wars are currently quiet the causes of the initial rebellions tend to remain unresolved. What makes this presentation timely is that after elections were held in November 2010 there is now a glimmer of hope for reconciliation between Burma’s ethnic minorities and the new quasi-civilian government. To help contextualise the long-running political crisis and the current proposals for its resolution, a reconceived understanding of ethnicity in Burma, and the related matters of citizenship and belonging, is required.

Dr Nicholas Farrelly
Nicholas Farrelly is a Research Fellow at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. His research stretches across the Southeast Asian region, particularly in Burma and Thailand, and focuses on relationships between government control, spatial organisation and political conflict. Nicholas was a Rhodes Scholar, and was Postdoctoral Fellow, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security in 2010-11. He is a member of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, received the Sir Peter Holmes Memorial Award in 2007, and is the co-founder of the journal New Mandala.

Thursday 26 April, 2012 | 5.30pm

Brown Theatre, Ground Floor, Electrical & Electronic Engineering Building (193)

Location map

Registration closes on Thursday 26 April.

Contact Erin Eades in the School of Social and Political Sciences at or (03) 8344 6564.
Nicholas Farrelly

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