SOAS University of London

Historian examines ethnic conflict in Burma (Myanmar) in latest book

10 October 2013
Mandy Sadan book pic

Dr Mandy Sadan, Lecturer in the History of South East Asia at SOAS, University of London considers the long-term development of ethno-nationalist conflict in the northern parts of Burma, which border with India to the west and China to the east, in her latest book.

Being and Becoming Kachin: Histories Beyond the State in the Borderworlds of Burma (British Academy and Oxford University Press, 2013) is particularly timely because of current discussions about political transformation in Burma and the ongoing difficulties that are preventing the development of a nationwide peace to facilitate those transformations.

The book is also of significance for the ways it suggests new understanding of Edmund Leach’s work and encourages more penetrating, empirical criticism of the model of 'Zomia' advanced in recent years by James C. Scott. Through combining long-term ethnographic and historical research, the book is set to change the way that the historical relations between Burma and one of its most important 'peripheries' are discussed, with implications too for promoting deeper understanding of similar border regions locked in apparently perennial conflict with their adjacent nation states.

Published in the prestigious British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships Monographs Series, published by Oxford University Press, Dr Sadan said: "It has been a real privilege to have had the support and advice of the Academy at this stage of my career. I feel especially fortunate that they were prepared to allow me the freedom to write the kind of book that I had envisioned over many years. Academics writing their first books are not usually given such a privilege."

In addition, to expand the debate about the book and make rare and highly vulnerable archival material from the region available to a wider audience, Dr Sadan has set up a website

There will be a seminar at SOAS on Saturday 12 October to discuss the recent history of conflict and peace in the Kachin region. Registration details and further information are available here.