Interpreting Communal Violence in Myanmar

Lecture | May 3 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 180 Doe Library | Note change in date

 Dr. Nick Cheesman, Research Fellow, Political & Social Change, Australian National University

 Center for Southeast Asia Studies

From 2012 to 2014, Myanmar experienced recurrent, sporadic, collective acts of lethal violence, realised through repeated public expressions that Muslims constitute an existential threat to Buddhists. This talk, which draws on scholarship from Indonesia and India, as well as from other work on Myanmar, seeks to make a case for classing and analyzing the violence as “communal”. Dr. Cheesman also advocates for interpretive modes of inquiry into the violence, and 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 the seemingly self-evident categories for its analysis. But interpretivists, to be argued here, do not repudiate the search for factual truth. They make uncertain truth claims, by attending, in this case, to the processes, narratives, histories, and typologies that have contributed to the production of violence.

Dr. Nick Cheesman is a research fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change at Australian National University and a Visiting Fellow for this academic year at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. He is the author of Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order (Cambridge University Press, 2015). He has received a research grant from the Australian Research Council that seeks to examine the politics of torture in Thailand and Myanmar.

 cseas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-3609