Since the coup on 1 February 2021, Burma (the author’s term) has seen a humanitarian crisis in all regions of the country, with mass displacement and a myriad of human rights abuses. What happened in Burma and how the situation deteriorated to this point is the topic of Amitav Acharya’s new book Tragic Nation Burma: Why and How Democracy Failed. The book is a mixture of analysis and opinion, liberally layered with numerous quotations and interviews with members of Burma’s Civil Disobedience Movement, which Acharya dubs “thought warriors”.
This is the first comprehensive account of the multifaceted processes of gendered transformation that took place in Myanmar between 2011 and 2021, and which continues to shape events today. The period began with the end of direct military rule and the transition to a hybrid, semi-democratic regime, precipitating far-reaching political, economic and social changes across Myanmar. To date, the gendered dynamics and effects of this transition have not yet received sustained scholarly attention.
What does it mean to be a meritocracy? Ask an ordinary person, and they would likely say it means promoting the best and brightest in today’s society based on merit. But that simple explanation belies many thorny questions. What is merit? How do we measure talent? How does equality come into play? And how do we ensure that meritocracies don’t degenerate into the same old privileged systems they strive to replace?
Problems arising from the Internet are generally thought of in terms of misinformation, violation of privacy, addiction to gadgets, depression brought on by social media, and manipulation of personal data for advertising and political ends by the Big Tech. In Asia, these problems take on even graver proportions as governments play a greater role in regulating access to the content available on the web.
A perusal of the bios of the contributors provides the first indication that Tropical Silk Road is not a typical collection of academic papers. In addition to the professors and researchers one might expect, the list also includes Sabrina Felipe, an independent investigative reporter; Paúl Ghaitai Males, “born in the Indigenous community of Compañía-Otavalo and is currently an anthropology student at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Rina Pakari Marcillo, “a Kichwa-Otavalo student of cultural anthropology at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Alessandra Korap Silva Munduruku, “one of the most respected Indigenous leaders in Brazil and a law student at the Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará (Ufopa)”; Jefferson Pullaguari, “vice president of the Indigenous Shuar Federation of Zamora Chinchipe” as well as Zhou Zhiwei, deputy director of the Department of International Relations at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
This study identifies the latent and emergent drivers behind the mounting acrimony in South Asia—notably, India’s ambitions as a “rising power” coupled with the resurgence of China and Pakistan’s strategic anxiety as the United States unmoors itself from Afghanistan and embraces India. India is similarly concerned as China advances its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) across the region, developing a network of economic and strategic hubs and bringing India’s neighbors into China’s embrace through its strategy of peripheral diplomacy.
The pursuit of meritocracy has proven a sort of holy grail for many policymakers and social-planners, perhaps nowhere more so than in Asia, where it can be explicitly invoked as the way to catch up with and even leapfrog the West. The cleverly-entitled Making Meritocracy is a collection of scholarly essays investigating the past and present of meritocracy in, primarily, China and India.