BOOK LAUNCH – Rights Refused: Grassroots Activism and State Violence in Myanmar

Date: Friday, 26 January 2024

Time: 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Venue: FASS Research Division Seminar Room AS7 Level 6 Room 42, 5 Arts Link, and Zoom

Registration (in-person): Eventbrite

Registration (online): Zoom


5:30-5:40 pm: Registration

5:40-5:50 pm: Welcome Remarks by FASS Vice Dean of Research, Professor Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho (NUS Geography), and Introduction by Chair, Dr Moe Thuzar (ISEAS-YIH)

5:50-6:10 pm: Presentation by Assistant Professor Elliott Prasse-Freeman (NUS Sociology and Anthropology)

6:10-6:40 pm: Discussion of book and current events in Myanmar with two Discussants, Associate Professor Stephen Campbell (NTU Social Sciences) and Dr Moe Thuzar (ISEAS-YIH)

6:40-7 pm: Q & A with audience, Moderated by Chair

7-7:30 pm: Book signing and light dinner (Books available for purchase at discounted price of $25 SGD). 

7:30 pm: End of event

Rights Refused: Grassroots Activism and State Violence in Myanmar
For decades, the outside world mostly knew Myanmar as the site of a valiant human rights struggle against an oppressive military regime, predominantly through the figure of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. And yet, a closer look at Burmese grassroots sentiments reveals a significant schism between elite human rights cosmopolitans and subaltern Burmese subjects maneuvering under brutal and negligent governance. While elites have endorsed human rights logics, subalterns are ambivalent, often going so far as to refuse rights themselves, seeing in them no more than empty promises. Such alternative perspectives became apparent during Burma’s much-lauded decade-long “transition” from military rule that began in 2011, a period of massive change that saw an explosion of political and social activism. Given these realities, the talk then asks: how do people conduct politics when they lack the legally and symbolically stabilizing force of “rights” to guarantee their incursions against injustice? It documents grassroots political activists who advocate for workers and peasants across Burma, covering not only the so-called “democratic transition” from 2011-2021, but also the February 2021 military coup that ended that experiment and the ongoing mass uprising against it, illustrating how Burmese subaltern politics compel us to reconsider how rights frameworks operate everywhere.

rights refused

Order the book here. Books will be available for purchase and signing at this event for a discounted price of $25 SGD. Copies are limited.

About the Author

elliott prasse-freemanElliott Prasse-Freeman, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the National University of Singapore, received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at Yale University. In addition to his recently published book (Rights Refused, Stanford University Press), Dr Prasse-Freeman also has a book project on Rohingya ethnogenesis and political subjectivity amidst dislocation and mass violence. His work has appeared in journals such as American Ethnologist, Current Anthropology, Journal of Peasant Studies, Public Culture, and Comparative Studies in Society and History, and he is part of the editorial team at Anthropological Theory.

About the Discussants

stephen.campbellStephen Campbell (PhD, Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2015) is Associate Professor of anthropology in the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University. His current research focuses on the impact of Myanmar’s 2021 military coup on labour outmigration. His previous research examined workers’ struggles along the Thai-Myanmar border and informal labour on Yangon’s industrial outskirts. His first book, Border Capitalism, Disrupted: Precarity and Struggle in a Southeast Asian Industrial Zone, was published in 2018. His second book, Along the Integral Margin: Uneven Development in a Myanmar Squatter Settlement, was published in 2022.

moe thuzarMoe Thuzar is a Senior Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, where she coordinates its Myanmar Studies Programme. Moe joined ISEAS in 2008, as lead researcher in the ASEAN Studies Centre up to August 2019. Prior to joining ISEAS, Moe spent ten years at the ASEAN Secretariat, where she headed the Human Development Unit from 2004 to 2007. A former diplomat, she researched Burma’s foreign policy implementation (1948-88), for her PhD at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests include ASEAN integration impacts and issues (socio-cultural areas), Myanmar foreign policy, and ASEAN’s dialogue relations.  Moe co-authored with Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Myanmar: Life After Nargis (ISEAS, 2009), and co-edited with Yap Kioe Sheng, Urbanisation in Southeast Asia: Issues and Impacts (ISEAS, 2012), and with Tommy Koh and Hernaikh Singh, ASEAN and India: The Way Forward (World Scientific, 2023).

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