Daw Daw Nan War War Hto1 Daw Zin Mar Phyo1
1Department of Anthropology, Mandalay University, Myanmar
Resistant discourses to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) frequently utilize populist narratives, evoking a sense of crisis created or sustained by an existential ‘other’. In several recent cases in Myanmar, activists have successfully combined populist messages with appeals to environmental protection, such as the suspension of the Myitsone Dam project in 2013, and campaigning over environmental degradation from the copper mine in Salingyi. These discourses often obscure the local details of transnational politics, such as food security and land governance, and the intersection between different narratives of development. In this critical geography of banana growing in Waingmaw District, near the China border, we analyze the local political ecology of food production, and how both acquiescence and resistance derive from, and influence populist narratives. Furthermore, we draw on Wood’s concept of ‘ceasefire capitalism’ to illustrate how the peculiarities of local geography, particularly in peripheral regions, result in different practical political settlements, involving a range of different actors including ethnic armed organizations, foreign merchants, government officials and local brokers. These ‘border assemblages’ establish and maintain ambiguities of governance, where, far removed from the judicial norms of the centre, power distribution takes place within a framework of perpetual contestation. This ambiguity paradoxically enables the success of more specific narratives of the threatening ‘other’, which are utilized to harness wider support for a more localized environmental issue.
Daw Nan War War Hto is an Assistant Lecturer in the Anthropology Department at Mandalay University, and has developed a strong academic interest in the application new perspectives, such as assemblage theory, to the study of governance in border areas of Myanmar.