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Complexity and Resistance in South-eastern, Myanmar 2012-2018

MOODIE, ALEXANDER,JAMES (2024) Complexity and Resistance in South-eastern, Myanmar 2012-2018. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis seeks to explain how the non-armed resistance of villagers in south-eastern Myanmar between 2012 and 2018 endured, adapted, and evolved amid new forms of structural violence. This was a period of political and economic change for this part of Myanmar, catalysed by the 2012 ceasefire between the main armed group of the region – the Karen National Union – and the Myanmar government, combined with a partial political and economic liberalisation. However, this ‘ceasefire capitalism’ period, while resulting in less direct violence for villagers, also catalysed more threats, including land confiscation, destruction of environments, loss of livelihoods and negative cultural impacts. Using the theoretical lens of complexity theory, this thesis narrates how self-organised acts by villagers emerged as patterns of dispersed resistance, spreading throughout the region and adapting to this new political and economic context. The four main categories of resistance it maps are Engagement, Mobilisation, Leveraging Existing Leaders and Organisations, and Confrontation. It uses already-existing documentation from a local human rights organisation – the Karen Human Rights Group – in the form of interviews, situation updates, photographs and land confiscation forms. I apply a thematic analysis through coding to a) identify patterns of resistance and b) apply complexity concepts of emergence, adaption and self-organisation to narrate a complex adaptive system of dispersed resistance. Using this theoretical lens, the thesis finds that a) the new political context provided opportunities for new modes and dynamic forms of resistance; b) this includes the ability for more connections and interactions between people therefore more forms of dispersed resistance emerged; and c) the role of civil society and community-based organisations in facilitating these connections was vital. The thesis contributes towards a more critical strand of complexity, one which takes into account power, inequality, conflict, and resistance.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Complexity, Resistance, Myanmar
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jan 2024 08:57

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