Launched in April 2016, the second phase of the M.MAS project has continued the two core components of Phase I: Local researchers (many of them alumni from the Phase I Community Research for Peace project) received further training in qualitative research skills and comparative scholarship on collective violence and peacebuilding. The M.MAS research team has also conducted focus group discussions and oral history interviews with a wide range of individuals in seven areas: three locations where violence has occurred already—Meikhtila and Mandalay (Mandalay Region) and Lashio (Shan State)— and four locations where violence has not occurred, but where the historical context and recent developments make research extremely salient—upper and lower Irrawaddy Region, Mawlamyine (Mon State) and Yangon (Yangon Region).
The core purpose of Phase II has been to ground alternative narratives about peace and religious violence in Myanmar. Phase I research, which generated a nuanced understanding of the narratives that justify mass violence also uncovered important counter-narratives. People pointed to friendships that crossed religious lines, participation in religious festivals, interactions based on business and livelihoods, and solidarity born out of shared experiences of poverty, marginalization and natural disaster. Ordinary people in Myanmar use these counter-narratives to both oppose extremist rhetoric and reconcile their own uncertainties and fears in ways that do not promote violence. Phase II of M.MAS was designed to highlight and support these counter-narratives.
In addition to Working Papers, media pieces and academic journal articles, the primary output for M.MAS Phase II will be a book of “peace histories” in Myanmar and English languages. These narratives will also be disseminated through other multimedia platforms.
The M.MAS leadership team for Phase II consisted of Dr Matthew J Walton, Mr Matt Schissler and Ms Phyu Phyu Thi. The Myanmar-based team also includes Ms Sint Sint Tun and Ms Hnin Nu Nu Naing (Gar Gar). Phase II of M.MAS has received continued support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Programme on Modern Burmese Studies. Additional funding has been provided by the Paung Sie Facility.