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Running from the Hills: Empire, Resistance and the State in Burma
Fri. September 15 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
The Wa region between Burma and China, where borders remain porous and neighbouring states have failed to ‘climb the hills’, seems like a typical place where highland dwellers have successfully resisted state domination. Yet the literature on Zomian escapism fails to capture the state’s intentions on the frontier. The British responded to Wa resistance by claiming sovereignty while in practice retreating from the hills. The colonial state was not interested in Leviathan projects of administering or ‘seeing’ upland peoples. Instead, I argue, they pretended to govern the hills. Peripheral situations like the Wa States were not actually anomalous, but instead crucial to how empire functioned. By running from the hills, the British freed up resources to govern directly elsewhere. After independence, the Rangoon government inherited the same constraints on governing and borrowed the same techniques of pretending to govern that the British had used.
Frances O’Morchoe is a Postdoctoral Associate in Myanmar Studies at Yale University. She received her DPhil in History from the University of Oxford in 2019.
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