Managed pacification : aid, peacebuilding, and the focus on results in Myanmar's transition

Bächtold, Stefan. Managed pacification : aid, peacebuilding, and the focus on results in Myanmar's transition. 2016, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_11976

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Myanmar has seen a marvellous transition over the last years. Not only in the sense that the country has emerged from six decades of military rule and armed conflict, and embarked on a path towards democracy and peace. Rather in the sense that its quasi-civilian government was suddenly not a ‘pariah’ of the international community anymore, but a ‘development partner’. International sanctions were replaced by capacity building for the government and civil society. Criticising the country’s human rights record gave way to assessing the country’s progress in reaching development goals. And Obama visited. Twice.
In this dissertation, I analyse how this became possible. Drawing on a Foucauldian understanding of discourse analysis and extensive ethnographic data, I examine how aid and peacebuilding construct ‘development’ as Myanmar’s most pressing problem in its ‘transition’. By analysing the discourse and practices of actors like local civil society organisations, bi-lateral donors, the Myanmar government, and international NGOs, I show how the country is constituted as ‘in transition’, and how this makes Myanmar amenable to the practices, policies, and ‘solutions’ of aid and peacebuilding. And, as I will argue, these solutions de-politicise and pacify political conflicts, rather than addressing them.
As my analysis shows, this is only partially due to events in Myanmar itself. Rather, it can be seen as the effects of processes of professionalisation, bureaucratisation, and de-politicisation that have taken place in the fields of aid and peacebuilding themselves. When coming under increased scrutiny with the rise of neoliberal governmentality in the Global West, ‘results’, ‘value for money', ‘effectiveness', and similar concepts became as common in aid and peacebuilding as in any other field of public policy. The use of technical instruments such as audits, benchmarks, or evaluations is hardly questioned anymore, and neither is the use of science to identify ‘high-impact’ policies and ‘evidence-based’ solutions. The effects of these concepts and instruments are far-reaching: ‘development’ and ‘peace’ are removed from the political realm, and firmly placed under the rule of ‘technical’ experts.
Although often presented as ‘untouched by power’, aid and peacebuilding are governed and govern by fine-grained networks of ‘technical’ concepts, practices, and institutions of accountability, professional knowledge, and standards of efficiency. These networks imbued with power/knowledge subjugate the actors in Myanmar’s transition into hierarchical structures that gloss over political conflicts, prioritise gradual reform, de-legitimise more far-reaching societal change, and re-produce global power structures – in the name of development effectiveness, or sustainable peace. The discourses, practices, and institutions of aid and peacebuilding thus form a dispositif of managed pacification: a dispositif permitting to ‘develop’ on the one hand, to disenfranchise on the other, to build peace while waging war, and to democratise albeit concentrating political influence in the hands of a few – in short, to confine complex, contradicting societal change processes to a model of gradual transition that can be managed, planned, and controlled.
But this order is far from uncontested: actors in Myanmar struggle for legitimacy for their perspective and their practices, de-legitimise other accounts, appropriate the power effects of global discourses, or engage in small acts of resistance to test the limits of the gradual transition. It is in these struggles for legitimacy and the accounts of the marginalised that the capillary power structures of the dispositif of managed pacification are exposed, incessantly altered – but at the same time, re-produced.
Advisors:Goetschel, Laurent and Maasen, Sabine
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften > Fachbereich Politikwissenschaft > Politikwissenschaft (Goetschel)
UniBasel Contributors:Goetschel, Laurent and Maasen, Sabine
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:11976
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:1 Online-Ressource (283 Seiten)
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Last Modified:24 May 2018 04:30
Deposited On:23 May 2018 14:17

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