Dr Jayde Lin Roberts

Dec 9, 2021

Hidden in Plain Sight

How Nalehmu is Disrupting Conventional Power Structures in Myanmar

SSEAC Stories 2021

In April 2021, three months into Myanmar’s most recent and increasingly more violent coup d’état, local residents managed to obstruct the junta by refusing to cooperate with military appointed officials. The junta had attempted to replace all local level administrators with those loyal to the military. But in one town in Shan State, the junta-appointed administrators were socially ostracized by the community to the point of resigning. With no one daring to take their place, every ward administrator position in town went unfilled. Across the country, Myanmar residents supported each other, and striking civil servants, by setting up donations of basic foodstuffs such as rice, oil, and onions.

In this episode, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Jayde Lin Roberts to discuss how these locally initiated direct actions are part and parcel of the ordinary practices of everyday life in Myanmar. In providing a space for informal, intimate, and relational economies, nalehmu not only fosters community-building, says Dr Roberts, but it also has the power to disrupt conventional power structures.

About Jayde Roberts:

Dr Jayde Lin Roberts is a senior lecturer in the School of Built Environment at UNSW Sydney and an interdisciplinary scholar of Urban Studies and Southeast Asian Studies. Her research on Myanmar focuses on urban informality, heritage-making, and the influence of transnational networks. Her monograph, Mapping Chinese Rangoon: Place and Nation among the Sino-Burmese was published by the University of Washington Press in 2016. She was a Fulbright US Scholar in Yangon, Myanmar between 2016-2018.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website: www.sydney.edu.au/sseac.

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.
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