Navigating Liminality: Region-Making and Political Practice on the Myanmar-China Border
Ong, Andrew Wai Hoong
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CitationOng, Andrew Wai Hoong. 2018. Navigating Liminality: Region-Making and Political Practice on the Myanmar-China Border. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation is an ethnography of region-making through political practice in Wa region, an autonomous region on the Myanmar-China border, governed by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the strongest Ethnic Armed Group in Myanmar with 30,000 troops. I argue that the political practices of the UWSA produce and maintain Wa Region as a liminal space within its geopolitical and economic realities, navigating a course between autonomy from and integration into the Myanmar nation-state through the intermittent building and breaking of connections. Over 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Wa Region, I studied the political practices of elites and ordinary people – peace negotiations and meetings with Myanmar, China and other armed groups, movement and trade across boundaries, governance and campaigns of UWSA territory, visiting and hospitality amongst Wa leaders, and commercial practices amidst scams and the mining economy. I also draw upon historical representations of the Wa to chart their autonomy up to the 1950s, the subsequent intrusions by foreign troops, the establishment of Wa Region and the UWSA in 1989, initial disengagement and ultimately the taking up of a leading role in the nationwide peace process with the Myanmar government in 2017. Navigating Liminality offers a perspective on Wa Region and the UWSA that does not confine it to the registers of a “non-state actor”, regard it as a “rebel” group necessarily at odds with the Myanmar government, or treat the stalemate in the peace process as failure. Instead, it proposes liminality as an ongoing and open-ended process that is productive for the UWSA, allowing it to negotiate the terms of its incorporation into the Myanmar state and safeguard its survival.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41128459
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