Courtney Thomas Wittekind
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationHarvard U.
Grant numberGr. 9855
Approve DateApril 30, 2019
Project TitleWittekind, Courtney (Harvard U.) " "Time to Change:" Temporalities of Transition in a “New” Myanmar "
Through ethnographic fieldwork in the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, this research explores peri-urban agricultural communities’ responses to prospects raised by large-scale state planning. In particular, I focus on Myanmar’s ambitious New Yangon Development Project, which aims to extend the city’s limits by over 20,000 acres. An in-depth study of Southwest Yangon residents’ ambitions, and their attempts to realize them in a heightened moment of possibility— with land values sky-high and investment schemes left unchecked—this study seeks to understand how novel opportunities for investment, speculation, and planning articulate with assessments of a promised political and economic “transition.” State interventions such as the New Yangon Development Project have taken on significant symbolic weight in Myanmar, with the project’s progress seen by many as mirroring that of the democratic transition more broadly. Marked by routine freezes and reboots, the endless deferral of both a “new Yangon” and a “new nation” provides an opportunity to theorize how citizens identify and evaluate “change,” across multiple scales. Ultimately, by focusing on the ways residents negotiate tensions between promised futures and a present reality of continued deferral, this research foregrounds the interlinkages between political transformation, future-oriented planning, and the new forms of temporal marginalization they produce.