Geoffrey Aung

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Columbia U.

Grant number

Gr. 9322

Approve Date

October 5, 2016

Project Title

Aung, Geoffrey, Columbia U., New York, NY- To aid research on 'Dispossession, Popular Politics, and Agrarian Futures in Southeast Burma/Myanmar,' supervised by Dr. Partha Chatterjee

GEOFFREY AUNG, then a graduate student at Columbia University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in October 2016 to aid research on ‘Dispossession, Popular Politics, and Agrarian Futures in Southeast Burma/Myanmar,’ supervised by Dr. Partha Chatterjee. This research examines time, politics, and experiences thereof around one of the world’s largest infrastructure projects: a vast deep-sea port and cross-border special economic zone (SEZ) project centered on Dawei, a town in southern Burma/Myanmar. Suspended since 2013 — after limited investment and widespread public criticism — the project may yet resume, with preparations underway. Research consisted of extended, mixed-method ethnographic fieldwork on the following topics: processes of dispossession around the project, including how people uprooted understood those processes; the social and political subjects those processes have engendered, such as locally based as well as transnational activist networks that contest certain elements of the project; and the broader experience of capitalist transformation when earlier modernizing visions appear no longer to apply. In a place that once promised a transition from farm to factory, agriculture to industry, what does it mean to live, or even strive, within the suspension of that trajectory? On hold like so many large-scale infrastructure projects across Southeast Asia, the Dawei SEZ demands a fresh accounting of temporal politics and postcolonial futures, opening up novel relations between anthropology, politics, and developmental change in and beyond one agrarian frontier.