Dr Jayde Lin Roberts delivering her seminar, chaired by Dr Michael J. Montesano (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
24 March 2017 – The Myanmar Studies Programme at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, in collaboration with the ISEAS Regional Socio-Cultural Studies Programme, invited Dr Jayde Lin Roberts, a lecturer at the University of Tasmania currently living in Yangon as a U.S.Fulbright Fellow for Burma/Myanmar, to share her insights on Myanmar’s urbanisation and its relation to ideas about national development.
Participants at the seminar (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
With the steady opening up of the country since 2011, Myanmar’s reformers have linked urbanization with development. An Urban Research and Development Institute (URDI) was inaugurated in January 2012, with a view to “assist the Government’s endeavours of building a new, modern and developed nation.” This has been somewhat beneficial as it resulted in Myanmar committing to international standards to catch up with neighbours and plug in to the global economy. Myanmar’s leaders past and present have viewed urban planning as a vehicle for developing cities as growth engines. But there is no clear definition of what is urban or what constitutes development in the Myanmar context. These terms, as well as the processes that they represent, have been assimilated from the West. Concerns are emerging that uncritical application of the tenets of development and neoliberal globalization to Myanmar may create (or exacerbate) tensions between city administrators and inhabitants over what constitutes “the right to the city”, the enfranchisement of its inhabitants, the roles and functions of cities in reforming Myanmar, and the nature of urbanism in a rapidly globalizing country.