Farmlands, or agricultural landscapes, captures the interest of a number of researchers based at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. On this blog we share information about research findings, activities, events and comments related to our work.

Our interest in farmlands has three roots: farming, landscape and society.
Farming as a practice, including farmers knowledge and labour investments
Landscape as society-nature relations, congealed history, and as space and place
Society as a short form for institutions, gender relations, political economy and scientific relevance

Most Welcome to FarmLandS!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A guest blogger from Burma

In this blog we host Emelie Svensson who is a MA student at LUMID at Lund University and received a MFS scholarship to do her research in Burma. Here are some of her reflections. 

Burma is often called ‘the land of the golden pagodas’, even though I have not visited any of them; it is certainly true, as there is a golden stupa at every mountaintop and city corner. I often think about the far better use this gold could have done if it was sold and the money used for hospitals, roads and education for the people. Burma has since the coup in 1962 been ruled by an authoritarian military junta, now lead by the ‘civilian’ president U Thein Sein. Both political freedoms and ethnic minorities have been heavily supressed during this long period of ruthless dictatorship, which have been using the so-called ‘dived and rule’ principle instituted by the former suppressors, the British Empire. However, reforms have been visible in the political system in Burma during at least the last six years. The military junta changed their uniforms into suits and began with what they call the ‘Seven-step roadmap to democracy’. Ceasefire agreement and peace negotiations between the national military and armed ethical minority groups have been initiated. These changes have open up the country to both curious tourists, international investments, and it has enabled both press and parts of the democracy movement to return from years in exile.

It might sound like a saga were the bad guys finally realise that their actions have been bad and now are trying to genuinely change the situation. Thus, this is not the case. Burma is still very unstable and the power remains solely within the government and the military, and the changes mostly benefit the government and it’s crony’s. Journalists are continually being imprisoned (and there have recently been cases of extra-judicial execution) for writing about issues that are sensitive to the government. Members of the student movement get imprisoned for protesting and demanding their rights. In addition to this, several fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups are currently on-going both in the north of Shan state, in Kachin state and in Karen state.

So what am I doing in Burma if I am not visiting temples and pagodas (which seem to be the main destination of most tourist that are visiting the country)? Currently I am collecting data for my Master thesis in development studies. I have had the opportunity to do this, as I got a MFS (Minor Field Study) scholarship from the department of human geography at Stockholm University.

In this study I am looking deeper into young women’s participation in the Burmese student and youth movement to understand how these women perceive the current political situation in Burma. This study is especially relevant as Burma is undertaking this democratisation process, or at least this is what the international community seems to believe even if the national opposition, the Burmese civil society together with many scholars are sceptical toward the direction of this process. The civil society, especially the student and youth movement, are important actors in the political landscape in Burma. I will look at the participation and role of women in the civil society using feminist democracy theory, which discuss on the importance of bringing women’s (and other marginalised groups) experiences to the arena to make an inclusive community democratic dialogue.

So how is my study going? I have travelled across the country to meet with youth organisations and the young women working in them. I started in the very south of the country in Dawei and I have travelled to Lashio the north of Shan stat (close to the Chinese border) and tomorrow I am taking a 17 hour bus to the town of Kalay in the north east, close to the Indian border. The women that I have talked to have very interesting both horrifying and more hopeful stories including everything from imprisonment, working underground, having babies, taking important steps toward democracy, war, people fleeing, and loud protest against the new education system. Even though a new night-bus awaits, and my stomach is grumpy as a 5-year old, I am loving this amazing experience and the opportunity to meet so many smart, brave and hard working women in this intriguing and important movement!


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