Southeast Asia Studies Seminar Program
The MacMillan Center at Yale University
Nov 14 , 2012

"The Grassroots' approach to Poverty Alleviation in Contemporary Burma/Myanmar"

Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung
, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell

This research focuses on how ordinary citizens in Burma/Myanmar cope with their daily lives and the diverse impacts their consequential actions have on a range of issues including collective welfare, the environment, productivity, long-term economic prospects and political practices. Materials from this presentation are based on a field work which was carried out in Burma between 2009 and 2011, and employed a combined research method including observation, survey, and interview of over 200 respondents from all walks of lives and across different geographical span.

The talk will show various widespread and regularized adaptive strategies adopted by individuals, households, and communities. It will demonstrate that not all locally initiated strategies to survive on a daily basis and to address individual and collective needs lead to the promotion of trust, autonomy, collective welfare, or democratic culture. Most of these efforts are responses by individuals, households, communities, and organizations to manage, evade, or take advantage of constraints and opportunities that are often specific to local areas and they may have long-term detrimental effects on society, polity, and the economy. The research highlights the utility of applying interdisciplinary and holistic lenses to assess political implications, and suggests context specific policy prescriptions that are more sensitive to the needs of targeted populations.

Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung is associate professor of Political science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where she teaches International Relations, Southeast Asian Politics, Democratization, Politics of Identity, and Political Economy. Her areas of specialization are political economy, ethnic politics, and Burmese/Southeast Asian politics. She is the author of The "Other" Karen in Myanmar (Lexington 2012) and Behind the Teak Curtain (Kegan Paul 2004) and several monographs and articles.

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