Infrastructural Development in Periurban Myanmar: From Post-Transition to Post-Coup


About the Webinar

This talk explores high-stakes decision-making in Yangon, Myanmar, where an ambitious proposal to transform three agricultural townships into a sprawling “new city” has made planning for the future a pressing task. In Southwest Yangon, this “New Yangon Development Project” looms large, having promised to build a 20,000-acre modern metropolis, fit for Myanmar’s short-lived “democratic” era. Sky-high land prices, unchecked speculation, and a deluge of novel investment schemes offer area residents the chance to secure transformed lives. But previously unimaginable returns come with extraordinary risk; even as some residents have amassed small fortunes from strategic land sales, successive crises—project suspensions, COVID-19, and now a military coup—has meant that others’ ill-timed deals have resulted in ruin.

Ultimately, by asking how residents navigate the continued deferral of imagined futures, across geographic scales, this talk foregrounds interlinkages between processes of political transition, high-stakes planning, and the new forms of temporal marginalization that are produced when “change” goes unrealized.

About the Speaker

Courtney T. Wittekind is Ph.D. Candidate in Social Anthropology at Harvard University and a Harvard-Mellon Urban Initiative Fellow. Her doctoral research pursues two lines of inquiry linked to urban development and economic insecurity in Myanmar. The primary component is an ethnography of the politics of infrastructural planning in southwest Yangon, a region undergoing rapid transformation amidst plans for a “new city”. A second avenue of inquiry probes Myanmar’s broader political landscape, proposing that local responses to infrastructural deferrals may reveal related stances toward Myanmar’s short-lived reforms. This research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.


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Sep 09 2021


10:00 am - 11:15 am