How in Myanmar "National Races" Came to Surpass Citizenship and Exclude Rohingya

Nick Cheesman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The idea of "national races" or taingyintha has animated brutal conflict in Myanmar over who or what is "Rohingya." But because the term is translated from Burmese inconsistently, and because its usage is contingent, its peculiar significance for political speech and action has been lost in work on Myanmar by scholars writing in English. Out of concern that Myanmar's contemporary politics cannot be understood without reckoning with taingyintha, in this article I give national races their due. Adopting a genealogical method, I trace the episodic emergence of taingyintha from colonial times to the present. I examine attempts to order national races taxonomically, and to marry the taxonomy with a juridical project to dominate some people and elide others through a citizenship regime in which membership in a national race has surpassed other conditions for membership in the political community "Myanmar." Consequently, people who reside in Myanmar but are collectively denied citizenship-like anyone identifying or identified as Rohingya-pursue claims to be taingyintha so as to rejoin the community. Ironically, the surpassing symbolic and juridical power of national races is for people denied civil and political rights at once their problem and their solution.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)461-483pp
    JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
    Volume47
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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