Activist becomings in contemporary Myanmar. (Presentation)

Carolin Hirsch

16.-18. Juni 2017

Activist becomings in contemporary Myanmar. At: Interdisciplinary Myanmar Conference 2017. University of Bonn, Germany.

The research project "Activist becomings in contemporary Myanmar" is focused on how activism is evolving and manifesting on the individual and collective level of the actors and how the areas of political activism and food activism are linked through the actions of the members of the Food Not Bombs group in the urban setting of Yangon. The project has three central research dimensions: activist life worlds, learning with complementary forms of knowledge and exploring the political dimensions of infrastructure. The attention lies on the sociocultural dynamics that occur when activists shape new socialities and political infrastructures. This project is part of a larger research initiative entitled „Activist Becomings" that is currently in the planning stage and will take place at the University of Konstanz. My focus will be on the Yangon-Based Food Not Bombs (FNB) group, a group that bridges the areas of food activism and political activism. The interest lies in understanding how FNB members become activists and how their activism is integrated into their everyday life. Furthermore, my interest lies in understanding how their collective efforts are influencing their social environment and the political landscape in Yangon and beyond. According to FNB, their aims are to protest against war and poverty through sharing free vegetarian food with people in need. Through offering food every Monday evening to people in need FNB is trying to shape the social reality of this people and draw the attention to the problems of poverty, low wages and rising rents. The organization is dedicated to nonviolent social change. FNB Myanmar is run by the members of the punk rock band „Rebel Riot“ and was founded in 2013, two years before the first free elections in 2015 after five decades of military dictatorship. The ongoing transformation in the political sphere outside of and within governmental institutions has allowed for a growing awareness of what activistic engagement by citizens can achieve, since activism does not have to be carried out from exile any more.