Seminar: Does Urbanization Equal Development in Myanmar?
About the Seminar
With the opening up of the country’s economy in its development drive, reforms in post-2011 Myanmar have linked urbanization with development. In his speech inaugurating Myanmar’s Urban Research and Development Institute (URDI) in January 2012, then Union Minister of Construction Khin Maung Myint expressed his hope that the “URDI will assist the Government’s endeavours of building a new, modern and developed nation.” This fixation on modernization and development is not new for Myanmar, but it has taken on increased urgency since 2011. The country’s leaders have pursued economic integration with ASEAN and adopted a number of international standards, including the UN Millennium Development Goals, as near-term targets. In this drive to catch up with Myanmar’s neighbours and to reconnect with the global economy, these leaders see cities as the engines for economic development. But in the rush to make the country competitive there has been no discussion of what the urban is or what constitutes development. Other cities in the global South and postcolonial countries have encountered similar challenges, leading scholars to question the uncritical application of the tenets of development and neoliberal globalization to so-called developing nations. This seminar will focus on the making of the urban in Myanmar as a contingent and contested process that is increasingly subject to international circuits of authoritative knowledge. In particular, it asks, what is a city if it is not the production of space undertaken by its inhabitants? What are the roles and functions of cities in a reforming Myanmar? And what is Myanmar urbanism in a rapidly globalizing country?
About the Speaker
Jayde Lin Roberts is a spatial ethnographer and interdisciplinary scholar of the built environment. Her book, Mapping Chinese Rangoon: Place and Nation among the Sino-Burmese, was published by the University of Washington Press in June 2016. She is a tenured faculty member at the University of Tasmania and is currently in Myanmar as a Fulbright Scholar. Her ongoing research in Yangon examines discourses of development as presented by the British colonial government and the governments of independent Burma/Myanmar, as well as the current representation of development, which is strongly influenced by international standards and universalized expertise.