The Role of Diasporic Minority Women’s Organizations in Myanmar’s Conflict Transformation Process
This project examines the activism of diasporic minority women's organizations and its impact on conflict transformation and peacebuilding in Myanmar.
Research examining the different ways in which diasporas engage in conflict and peacebuilding has remained overwhelmingly gender blind; very little is known about women's political activism in exile, or about the gendered impacts of diaspora politics on conflicts and peace processes. Addressing this research gap, this project examines the activism of diasporic minority women's organizations and its impact on peacebuilding in Myanmar.
The ways in which diaspora communities engage with and affect conflicts and peace processes in their former home countries have in recent years been the focus of increasing scholarly attention. It has been noted that diaspora involvement can fuel violence and prolong conflict, but also support peace initiatives and positive social change. However, the growing body of research examining the different ways in which diasporas engage in conflicts and peacebuilding has remained overwhelmingly gender blind; very little is known about women’s political activism in diaspora, or about the gendered impacts of diaspora engagements in homeland conflicts and peace processes. Addressing this research gap, the project outlined in this proposal examines the activism of diasporic minority women’s organizations and its impact on conflict transformation and peacebuilding in Myanmar (Burma). In the past few years, Myanmar has initiated a number of political reforms, taking significant steps towards democratization after 60 years of military rule. In addition, political reforms has been accompanied by a number of peace process which has managed to halt fighting in much of the country, a promising development in a civil war that has been ongoing throughout most of independent Burma’s history. The project will answer three research questions: 1) How do diasporic minority women’s organizations engage with the process of conflict transformation in Myanmar? 2) How and to what extent do they influence the content and outcomes of processes of conflict resolution, democratic transition and peacebuilding? 3) How does the activism of diasporic minority women’s organizations contribute to reshape conceptions of gender, ethnicity and nation? Answering these research questions, this project will contribute to address a significant research gap through approaching diaspora engagement in homeland conflicts as a gendered phenomenon, structured by gendered relations of power but also potentially contributing to reshape gender orders in the homeland. Further, in the context of ongoing changes, this projects will contribute with highly timely new knowledge about the gendered dynamics of political transition and conflict transformation in Myanmar. The project will rely on a qualitative case study design and examine Burmese minority women’s organizations based in Thailand. The activism of these organizations will be studied through qualitative interviews with activists; participant observation of the daily work of organizations as well as of specific campaigns and events; and reports and other forms of written materials from women’s organizations. In addition, Burmese English-language media coverage as well as international media coverage of issues related to conflicts, peacebuilding and democratization in Myanmar will be examined. The methodology is inspired by institutional ethnography, an approach which takes women’s everyday realities as point of departure and then attempts to connect these to the broader regimes of power and rule that shape the conditions of these everyday realities. Theoretically, the project will draw on previous literature and conceptual frameworks on how diaspora communities engage with and seek to affect processes of change in the homeland. In order to understand and theorize the gendered dynamics of such processes as well as the nature of and conditions for women’s activism in the diaspora, the project will make use of concepts and tools from the wealth of literature on gender, peace and conflict. Bringing these research fields together will enable this project to make important and novel contributions by examining how women in the diaspora organize and act politically, how their activism affects the peace process in the homeland, and how it contributes to reconstruct notions of gender, ethnicity and nation.
Keywords: diaspora, women's organizations, Myanmar, civil war, peacebuilding, peace processes.