Organized Panel Session
After decades of military rule, Myanmar’s liberalization and democratization have opened up new possibilities for the expression of ethnicity in Myanmar. Ethnicity, a core political issue in Myanmar, is now mobilized and politicized in new ways and through new channels. The transitional environment creates both the possibility of greater ethnic representation as well as new fault lines and conflict. This panel assesses the impact over the last decade of reforms on ethnic identity in Myanmar, with a particular emphasis on teasing out new contradictions and tensions resulting from a rapidly changing ethnic and national landscape. All papers address a particular aspect of how changing ethnic identity, and processes of identity (re)construction are transforming Myanmar’s groups in ways that contradict, or cast doubt, on aspirations for ethnic federalism. Ardeth Thawnghmung tries to understand why internal migration, which has increased in the transitional period, has failed to generate the type of conflicts that are so common elsewhere. Jacques Bertrand examines whether or not the new democratic space has allowed ethnic minority groups to promote their language and culture. Alexandre Pelletier examines how Myanmar’s current discussion over linguistic rights, both among ethnic minorities and the Bamar majority, tend to misrepresent the diverse and fluid linguistic makeup of the country. Finally, Myat The Thisar asks whether Facebook, which has grown exponentially since the beginning of the transition, has provided another outlet for Burmanization or, instead, has provided a new avenue for ethnic cohesion and solidarity.