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Border Governance in Kachin State, Myanmar: Un/caring states and aspirant state building during humanitarian crises

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2021

ELAINE LYNN-EE HO
Affiliation:
Department of Geography and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore Email: elaine.ho@nus.edu.sg
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Since 2011 renewed fighting between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has triggered the internal displacement of more than 100,000 people in Kachin state. This article examines how care practices and care ethics influence border governance in the context of humanitarian concerns in Kachin state in northern Myanmar, which shares a border with China. The situation in Kachin state at the China-Myanmar border reveals the contrasting territorial logics at stake, the contingency of governance at a time of political transition, and distinct ‘regimes of care’, as manifested through humanitarian relief, which all contribute towards border governance. Drawing on ethnographic research and interviews, the article highlights how care deficits are met by a separatist government, community organizations (both faith-based and secular), and diaspora populations which mobilize a range of networks and resources—forming webs of connections and interfacing with one another—to provide humanitarian relief. However, their actions and the ensuing flows of care could produce or deepen political subjectivities that are geared towards territorial contestation and separatism, thus changing expressions of border governance. The article further observes that the Kachin situation has wider implications for the peace negotiations taking place at the national level in Myanmar.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to the MAS reviewers for their constructive comments. This research was funded by the Ministry of Education, Singapore, under its Academic Research Fund Tier 1 (Award no. FY2016-FRC3-011).

References

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25 Malaysia and Thailand are also important sites where the Kachin diaspora have settled, but I did not carry out fieldwork in those sites due to practical constraints.

26 Kachin humanitarian worker, fieldwork interview by author, 2013.

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28 Fieldwork interviews by author, 2013.

29 See also essays expressing similar sentiments about ceasefires in other parts of Myanmar by the authors in Sadan (ed.), War and Peace.

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32 Fieldwork interviews by author, 2013.

33 Kachin community leader, fieldwork interviews by author, 2015.

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40 Anonymized reference, forthcoming.

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43 Fieldwork interview by author, 2017.

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49 Anonymized reference.

50 Fieldwork interview by author, 2015.

51 Mahkaw Hkun Sa, ‘The founding of the KNO and the development of an activist diaspora network’, in War and Peace, (ed.) Sadan, pp. 330–358.

52 Baldassar and Merla, Transnational Families, p. 8.

53 Kachin community leader, fieldwork interview by author, 2017.

54 Fieldwork interviews by author, 2017.

55 People's Tribunal of Myanmar, ‘Session on State Crimes Allegedly Committed in Myanmar against the Rohingyas, Kachins and Other Groups’, published online on 29 September 2017, available at https://tribunalonmyanmar.org/2017/10/31/judgment-of-the-peoples-tribunal-on-myanmar/, [accessed 4 December 2017].

56 Fieldwork interviews by author, Myanmar, 2017.

57 See Ticktin, Casualties of Care.

58 Kallio et al., ‘Refugeeness as political subjectivity’.

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