SOAS University of London

SOAS leads a British Academy Writing Workshop in Myanmar

4 December 2018

SOAS University of London staff led an innovative Writing Workshop in Myanmar in November, funded by the British Academy and intended to support researchers in and from the global south get their research published in high-ranking peer-reviewed journals.

The workshop was the first of its kind to be held in northern Myanmar, which is still facing ongoing conflict with the Myanmar government and which suffers greatly from a variety of forms of educational exclusion and marginalisation. The experience had a profound impact on many researchers, especially those coming from the Kachin region's near abroad in northeast India and Yunnan, challenging their preconceptions of northern Myanmar and helping them to build new understandings and networks.

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Photo: Dr Gustaaf Houtman works closely with two researchers, one from China and one from Myanmar, on their papers which they hope to publish. (Photograph by Professor Dan Smyer Yu)

The grant was awarded to Dr Mandy Sadan in the School of History, Religions and Philosophies, building on work developed in collaboration with Professor Gunnel Cederlof (LInnaeus University), Professor Willem van Schendel (University of Amsterdam), Professor Dan Smyer Yu (Yunnan Minzu University) and Professor Arupjyoti Saikia (IIT Guwahati) as part of a project called 'The India China Corridor'. Over the last 18 months, 2 early career and graduate workshops had been held in northeast India and Yunnan, bringing together researchers from the region. The workshop in northern Myanmar completed the series of events between these countries.

The workshop was organised locally by the Kachinland Research Centre, which SOAS researchers are helping to develop as a new centre for academic research in northern Myanmar. The workshop brought together researchers from China, Myanmar, Mizoram and Manipur in northeast India, Bangladesh, China, Singapore and Japan, who all shared their experiences and compared the different challenges they face in reaching a wider audience through publishing their work more broadly and in English. The workshop included a number of SOAS staff, including Dr Patrick Meehan (Development Studies) and Professor Emma Crewe (Anthropology) who spoke about making successful grant applications, and a former History MA student, Golan Naulak, who presented a paper on the history of identity politics in Mizoram. Dr Gustaaf Houtman, editor of Anthropology Today, gave advice on setting up and running online journals. A well known Japanese academic of Burmese origin, Dr Chosein Yamahata, talked about his experience of working as an academic across multiple trans-Asian academic contexts and publishing in different languages.

Before the workshop, Dr Sadan was supported by Lucia Kula, a SOAS doctoral researcher in Law, and Helen Porter, Digital Support Officer, to prepare an online educational resource on publishing for early career researchers. Lucia carried out interviews with a number of SOAS staff and researchers, including Dr Nathan Hill, Dr Rahul Rao, Dr Gregory Cooper and editorial officers involved in SOAS journals, including Dr Rowan Pease. This resource will be made available online in the next few weeks.