Introduction: Interpreting Communal Violence in Myanmar

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    Collective violence wracked Myanmar from 2012 to 2014. Overwhelmingly, Buddhists attacked Muslims. This article categorises the violence as "communal," in so far as it consisted of recurrent, sporadic, direct physical hostility realised through repeated public expressions that Muslims constitute an existential threat to Buddhists. It advocates for interpretive modes of inquiry into the violence, as well as into the practices of interpretation enabling it. Eschewing methods aimed at producing a purportedly coherent picture of what happened, interpretive research raises questions about conventional readings of violence, and seemingly self-evident categories for its analysis. But as the articles in this special issue show, interpretivists do not repudiate the search for factual truth. The contributors all make strong truth claims, but claims recognising that factual truths are always contingent. They establish these claims by attending variously to the processes, narratives, histories and typologies that have contributed to the production of communal violence in Myanmar.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)335-352pp
    JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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