Amitav Acharya, "Tragic Nation: Burma--Why and How Democracy Failed" (Penguin Random House, 2023)


What went wrong with Burma’s democratic experiment? How are we to understand the country’s turbulent politics in the wake of the 2021 coup?

In this conversation with Duncan McCargo, Amitav Acharya talks about his new book on Burma, which draws extensively on communications with young activists he refers to as “thought warriors”. He also discusses the challenges of researching a closed country, and why he decided to write a crossover book that he hopes will reach beyond the usual academic audiences.

A decade ago, Burma was full of light and hope. Today, it has descended into darkness and despair. The once promising political and opening up of the country has been set back, possibly for a long time. How did this happen? Why? Many outside observers were surprised by the latest developments, but in some ways they were rather predictable. For those watching Burma the February 2021 coup was in the making for some time. 

Tragic Nation: Burma--Why and How Democracy Failed (Penguin Random House, 2023) provides a timely and insightful account of the political situation in Burma, assessing why the country experienced the coup, what are the implications for the people of Burma and the Southeast Asian region, and what role the international community can play to prevent Burma becoming a failed state.

Amitav Acharya is a distinguished professor and the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC. His writings on Southeast Asia include Whose Ideas Matter: Agency and Power in Asian Regionalism (Cornell, 2009).

Duncan McCargo is director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen.

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Duncan McCargo

Duncan McCargo is an eclectic, internationalist political scientist, and literature buff: his day job is teaching global affairs at NTU in Singapore.

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