SOGOLAS Research Seminar: Militias, Violence, and State Building in Myanmar

02/21/2024 - 16:00 - 18:00

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An emerging research agenda in conflict studies focuses on pro-government militias. Militias are an important security actor, but until recently, they were marginalized. A conventional view of militias is that they serve as proxies for state repression. However, research shows that in some cases, militias have not engaged in extensive levels of violence and serve other purposes.

Militias are a long-running component of Myanmar's national security strategy. But until recently, the study of militias was limited because they were assumed to be part of the military. Previously, the lion's share of analysis focused on the involvement of a few militias in drug trafficking. However, after the 2021 coup, this changed as a new generation of military-allied militia now targets civilians for arson campaigns. 

This talk contributes to debates about militias and civil wars by moving beyond their security functions to look at them from a political perspective.  To do so, I look at the Myanmar military’s use of its militia system through the lens of state-building.  The talk covers the expansion of the militia system's initial security function to become a mechanism for tenuously integrating members of armed resistance units into the state security system. I will also discuss conceptual concerns about militias, address scholarly debates on criminality, state-building, and civil wars, and consider the implications for Myanmar.

The seminar will be held in English on site.

For further reading: TLU Humanities blog, an interview with John Allen Buchanan (05.01.2021)