Freedom and fear in Myanmar

Freedom and fear in Myanmar

Thursday, 15 May 2014 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Venue: 
Deakin Room, Founder’s Building, St Antony’s College
Speaker(s): 
Ian Holliday (The University of Hong Kong)
Chair: 
Dr Matthew Walton
Convenor: 
Dr Matthew Walton
Series: 
Southeast Asia Events in Oxford

In “Freedom from Fear”, published in 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi made a passionate plea for her country and its people to be liberated from tyranny. Two decades on, in 2011, Myanmar’s long-standing military junta finally did give way to a nominally civilian government, and soon thereafter the terrain of liberal freedom unquestionably expanded. Yet today there is still fear in Myanmar. Partly, it is vertical: ongoing fear of the state and its agents. Partly, it is horizontal: resurgent fear of society and the institutions, associations and identities that constitute it. Partly, it is in some sense inbred: deep-seated fear as a habit of mind after decades of dictatorship. The talk will consider the extent to which Myanmar’s current reform process is extending freedom across the land, and at the same time how it might address prevalent fear. Drawing chiefly on Judith N. Shklar’s liberalism of fear, Jacob T. Levy’s multiculturalism of fear and Václav Havel’s writings on hope and fear, it will examine the policy implications of a political agenda premised above all on freedom from fear in Myanmar.

Ian Holliday’s research focuses on political reform in Myanmar. His most recent book is Burma Redux: Global Justice and the Quest for Political Reform in Myanmar (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011). His classroom teaching addresses dilemmas of humanitarian intervention. Each year he also takes around 50 students to Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand to deliver intensive English language training in marginalized and impoverished communities. He was educated as an undergraduate student at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and as a graduate student at New College, Oxford. From 2006 to 2011, he was Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. He blogs at http://thukhuma.org.