Organized Panel Session
Myanmar has seen as resurgence of nationalism and ethnic identity politics following the 2010 general election. The rise of nationalist Buddhism is particularly prominent and making the protection of Burmese, race and religion a case of national law with the nationwide instigation of protecting nationals and Buddhism upholding rhetoric of “Protecting Ahmyo Batha Thathana”. Populist support for this movement is based on extreme othering: in this case of Muslims by Buddhist communities. However, such othering is not only a recent phenomenon, nor it is limited only to Buddhist and Muslim communities.
Most of the theories of othering define othering as “a process by which powerful groups, who may or may not make up a numerical majority, define subordinate groups into existence in a reductionist way which ascribe problematic and/or inferior characteristics to these subordinate groups. Such discursive processes affirm the legitimacy and superiority of the powerful and condition identity formation among the subordinate (Jensen, 2010a)”. However, this will explore the role of histories and narratives in shaping both ethnic self-identity and identity construction of the others. This is particularly relevant where the boundaries of identity in contemporary Myanmar are increasingly fluid and contested. To what forms of everyday expressions of ethnic identity reinforce or challenge dominant narratives? To what extent are inter-generational, usually oral histories being reshaped and applied to self and other identity construction in contemporary Myanmar? What new narratives offer different trajectories for identity construction and othering in contemporary Myanmar and where do these narratives exist?