Organized Panel Session
Constitutions proliferated in early post-war Asia as powerful symbols of newfound popular sovereignty. By declaring new political, social, and economic rights independent nations aspired to overcome the asymmetries of colonialism in a dramatically changing international order. Yet constitutions were also fundamental in reinscribing new relationships of power between aspiring centers and border areas whose sovereign status was far from clear during this period. Pathways and principles of development seeking to control both its resources and inhabitants also became embedded into constitutions as a means to assert state border-making policies. This paper looks at the cases of early post-war China (1946) and Burma (1947) by examining the ways in which their constitutional models addressed the particularities of border areas it sought to integrate. Amidst the fears of balkanization brought upon by the breakup of empires, the search for constitutional blueprints of this nature was part of a wider debate of accommodating borders and minorities in post-war Europe and Asia. Drawing up constitutions thus proved to be a unique enterprise of political experimentation on the Sino-Burmese border. As a new constitutional toolbox composed of development, rights, and popular sovereignty was unpacked, local actors on both sides of the borders sought to engage and contest their meanings within a new framework of decolonization.