Matthew Schissler

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10029

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Schissler, Matthew (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "Inter-religious life in Myanmar"

MATT SCHISSLER, then a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded funding in August 2020 to aid research on ‘Inter-religious life in Myanmar,’ supervised by Dr. Mike McGovern. After disruptions due to COVID-19 and a coup in Myanmar, funding enabled the grantee to work on the dissertation, ‘Violence in a Decade of Democracy: An Anthropological History of Race and Religion in Myanmar.’ In September 2018 UN investigators concluded that attacks on ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar had amounted to genocide. These events have also been explained in excellent recent works of public and scholarly research. Myanmar was transitioning to democracy; political competition often leads to scapegoating. But why was it the Rohingya who were made scapegoat? The dissertation argues this question has not been answered because established assumptions about political transitions, ethnic violence, and colonial legacies have lent existing explanations an intuitive sense of adequacy. Understanding how the Rohingya became the target, rather than others, thus offers to generate new insights on the established assumptions. The study accomplishes this by using tools from anthropology to weave together diverse materials: ethnographic observations from Myanmar; Burmese-language print and digital media; colonial archives; interviews; and a collaborative oral history project in five Myanmar cities. The result is a historical argument for the distinctively contemporary scales of violence against Muslims in Myanmar.