Modern Burmese Studies

The interdisciplinary programme on Modern Burmese Studies is situated within the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College. The programme is designed to open new perspectives on Burma/Myanmar during its period of political and economic transition and on the contested borders, social interactions and economic opportunities that exist within Southeast Asia and with its regional neighbours in South and East Asia. The programme has also explored and developed the ways in which existing research and teaching at Oxford can be brought together to bear on three main areas of regional interest: the common problems and issues which transcend national boundaries in the region within which Burma is placed; the interrelationships among the states and societies of this region; and its relationship to the external world of economic and cultural globalization as well as of geopolitics. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on the insights and methodology of history, economics and politics as a first step but also considering cultural, material and social issues. Most importantly, we have highlighted groups and perspectives that have been historically marginalized both in Myanmar’s political developments and in scholarship on the country.

St Antony’s has a long-standing interest in Burma/Myanmar. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an Honorary Fellow of the Colleges. Her late husband, Dr Michael Aris, was a Fellow of the College from 1989 until his death in 1999. Our project on Civil Resistance and Power Politics also commissioned a special study on the 2007 protests in Burma, in the wider context of studying non-violent movements across the world. St Antony’s also coordinated, in collaboration with the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford, The Charles Wallace Burma Trust Fellowship, which annually brought a scholar or practitioner from Myanmar to Oxford to engage in collaborative research.

Dr Matthew J Walton was the inaugural Aung San Suu Kyi Senior Research Fellow in Modern Burmese Studies. His research focuses on religion, ethnicity, and politics in Myanmar, with a particular emphasis on Burmese Buddhist political thought. Dr Walton’s book, Buddhism, Politics and Political Thought in Myanmarwas published in 2016 with Cambridge University Press. Find more of his publications here. From July 2018, Dr Walton has taken up a new post in Comparative Political Theory at the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto.

The Programme on Modern Burmese Studies is a founding partner in the Myanmar Media and Society (M.MAS) project, which is now completing its second phase, sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Paung Sie Facility (formerly the Peace Support Fund). Find out more about this project and download its publications here.

The Programme also established the Oxford-Myanmar Policy Brief Series, convening workshops in Oxford and Myanmar on policy issues in Myanmar’s transition. Find out more about this project and download its publications here.

The Programme has also been a supporting partner in the ESRC-funded research project “Understanding ‘Buddhist Nationalism’ in Myanmar: Religion, Gender, Identity and Conflict in a Political Transition,” housed at the Department of Politics and International Relations, for which Dr Walton is the P-I.

The Programme founded a blog, Tea Circle, which features analyses, research, and opinions on Burma/Myanmar from students, faculty, and community members at the University of Oxford and beyond.

From August 2018, the Programme on Modern Burmese Studies will be on a temporary hiatus.