Bounded duty: disasters, moral citizenship and exclusion in Myanmar

Gerard McCarthy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    In recent decades, Myanmar has been wracked by repeated disasters that have prompted extraordinary civilian-led relief efforts. This article situates non-state aid and relief as a product of the military junta's outsourcing of responsibility for welfare following the end of the socialist dictatorship in 1988. Drawing on historical accounts of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and ethnographic fieldwork during Cyclone Komen in 2015, the article argues that the outpouring of aid during natural catastrophes exposes moral conceptualizations of citizenship-often actively encouraged by government officials-in which commercial elites, welfare groups and ordinary people, rather than the state, have moral duties to render aid and relief in the wake of catastrophe. Focusing on the idioms and mechanisms through which non-state actors stretch the boundaries of moral duty from the local to the translocal needy, the paper asks: who gets included, and how, in visions of moral community which symbolically enable non-state relief efforts? Despite the emancipatory promise of moral citizenship, this research shows that non-state relief can also exacerbate social hierarchies and entrench exclusion, as it renders access to emergency aid contingent on inclusion in socially bounded imaginaries of reciprocity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)13-34
    JournalSouth East Asia Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    Dive into the research topics of 'Bounded duty: disasters, moral citizenship and exclusion in Myanmar'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this