Whose R2P? The politics of banana planting in Waingmaw Township.

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.


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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