Village Agency: Rural rights and resistance in a militarized Karen State

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Village Agency: Rural rights and resistance in a militarized Karen State

Published date:
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

With a disproportionate emphasis on isolated incidents of particularly emotive violent abuses in rural areas and a concurrent neglect of the many ways villagers have sought to resist such abuse, international journalism and advocacy around Burma has often contributed to portrayals of rural villagers as helpless victims passively terrorised by the Burma Army. By marginalising the agency of rural villagers in this way, such portrayals have perpetuated the exclusion of these individuals from the ongoing political processes which affect them. Citing the personal testimonies of over 110 villagers living in Karen State, this report seeks to challenge such portrayals and provide a forum for these individuals to speak for themselves about the context of abuse in which they live and their own efforts to resist this abuse. By highlighting the resistance strategies and political agency of villagers in rural Karen State, this report argues that the voices of these individuals can, and indeed should, be heard and incorporated into the many ongoing political processes that affect them.

Footnotes

[1] Similarly, Benedict Kerkvliet (2002: 11) argues for an understanding of "everyday politics" that goes beyond a narrow conception of formal alliances and factions expressly challenging or supporting de jure State authority and legislative powers." Rather, it should include the "debates, conflicts, decisions, and cooperation among individuals, groups, and organizations regarding the control, allocation, and use of resources and the values and ideas underlying those activities" which are "a part of daily life."

[2] Extensive documentation of particular incidents of human rights abuse in Karen State is available in the many Karen Human Rights Group reports on this website.