Interpreting the role of ideology in Myanmar's revolutionary situation

Event details

PSC Seminar Series

Date & time

Tuesday 14 June 2022


Zoom & PSC Seminar Room


Nick Ross


Maxine McArthur

When Myanmar’s military deposed a semi-civilian government about to resume office in February 2021 after an election the previous November, some observers viewed this as taking the country back into an all-too-familiar pattern of autocracy, disciplined democracy, and resistance.

However, resistance to this coup has been on a scale, diversity and intensity that has not been seen in Myanmar’s recent history. Armed opposition groups have risen throughout the country, and fighting has penetrated areas that had for decades been firmly under central government control. The exiled National Unity Government has, in another break with the past, declared a people’s “defensive war”, a war that for many participants and supporters is revolutionary.

Taking seriously the claim that the resistance to the February 2020 coup in Myanmar is a revolution, my question for this thesis proposal seminar is: how do people resisting military dictatorship in Myanmar construct and experience revolutionary ideology? The question has two parts. First, how are ideological possibilities limited and expanded in revolutionary situations? Second, how does ideology animate political action or inaction in revolutions—and what does attention to it reveal of revolutionary practise more generally?

The study of revolutions has tended to take ideology as either a fixed identity marker for individuals and factions or an epiphenomenon of structural conditions. Instead, I want to consider how in, a revolutionary situation, ideologies are transformed from within – and explore whether this process of ideological realignment may be the distinctive development that makes revolution possible. This will allow me to attend to certain epistemic and strategic questions that confront revolutionary projects: namely, how do those involved recognize a revolutionary situation when it emerges, and how do they recognize what strategies and tactics are thinkable? In this seminar, in addition to giving an overview of the major developments in Myanmar since the coup, I will discuss the significance of my research question and outline my proposed theoretical and methodological approaches to this inquiry into revolutionary ideology, data generation strategies and methods, research sites, and ethical and security considerations.

Nick Ross is a PhD student in Political and Social Change. His current research focuses on the revolution in Myanmar, ideology and revolutionary ideology. He has worked with civil society and opposition movements engaged in peace processes and political transitions and has published on the topic of rebel authority and governance, inclusion, and process design in peace negotiations in Civil Wars and International Negotiation, and for the Overseas Development Institute.

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