Beyond Beliefs: Exploring Disability and Identity in Myanmar

Miss Tawng Mai1

1Social Policy And Poverty Research Group, Yangon, Myanmar

A wealth of recent research highlights the critical role of narratives in identity construction, locating identity beyond biological categories to complex and fluid intersections of beliefs and performance, in which the narratives of self and others play a critical role in shaping, interpreting and re-shaping emergent identities. This paper analyses the narratives of the lived experiences of 20 persons with different types of disabilities who from Yangon region in Myanmar, to explore the role of negatives in the construction of their identity. The narratives demonstrate a complex interplay between self-identity construction based around the lived experience of limitations and stigmatization, and identity constructions conferred by family and community members based on their own beliefs on disability often derived from religious beliefs or traditional concepts of well-being.  Identity is a key process for social transformation, both on an individual and community level and it is hoped that this study will be a powerful tool for awareness raising and proactive campaigns to facilitate more enabling environments in which persons with disabilities can embody new more self-determined identities.


Tawng Mai has worked gender and disability rights for seven years mainly with INGOs, civic society’s organizations and DPOs. She currently works as a research assistant at Social Policy and Poverty Research Group (SPPRG), which is based in Yangon, Myanmar. SPPRG has a particular focus on conducting research relevant to emerging government policy.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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