Everyday Justice in Myanmar

Informal Resolutions and State Evasion in a Time of Contested Transition

Edited by Helene Maria Kyed

Hardback available worldwide in Fall 2020. Paperback available in February 2021.
ISBN Hardback: 978-87-7694-281-6, £70 (August 2020)
ISBN Paperback: 978-87-7694-282-3, £25.00 ()

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About the book

  • First book to explore how ordinary people in Myanmar access justice and resolve disputes 
  • Based on a unique collection of ethnographic studies. 
  • Explores the wider dynamics of state making, identity politics and authority-making in a society in contested transition.

This volume explores how ordinary people in present-day Myanmar obtain justice and resolve disputes and crimes in a time of contested transition in government, politics, society, and the economy. Its empirical questions serve as a lens to analyze the wider dynamics of state making, the role of identity politics, and the constitution of authority in a country emerging from decades of military rule and civil war. 

Based on a unique collection of ethnographic studies with ordinary people’s experiences to the fore, its contributions illustrate that legal pluralism exists in urban as well as rural contexts: from the cities of Yangon and Mawlamyine to the Naga hills, the Pa-O self-administered zone, the Thai refugee camps, and villages in the Karen and Mon states. In all of these places, the official state system is only one among many avenues for people seeking resolution in criminal and civil cases. Indeed, a common practice is to evade the state whenever possible. Most people prefer local and informal resolutions, and therefore the main actors consulted in everyday justice are village elders, local administrators, religious leaders, spiritual actors, and the justice systems or individual members of ethnic organizations. 

Prevailing are also a range of alternative understandings of (in)justice, misfortunes, and disputes that differ from those of the state-legal system. These alternatives are based on different cultural norms, religious beliefs, and forms of identification. Despite the ongoing transition in Myanmar, the long history of military rule and conflicts based on ethnic divisions continue to foster a mistrust in the state and an orientation towards ‘the local’ in everyday justice. The book explores these forms of state evasion and what it means more broadly for state–society relations in the current transition.

About the author

Helene Maria Kyed is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. She is head of its research unit on Peace and Violence and coordinated the EverJust research project in Myanmar between 2015 and 2020. Kyed is trained as a social anthropologist and has done extensive research on policing, informal justice and state formation in Southern Africa and Myanmar. She has published extensively on these topics in international academic journals and scholarly volumes, recently co-editing a special issue of the Independent Journal of Burmese Scholarship on the theme of justice. 

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by Nicholas Farrelly
From journal: Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
This edited book draws its great strength from the combined efforts of Myanmar and Danish scholars who share a deep commitment to better appreciating the local dynamics of peace-building, dispute resolution, law reform, policing and religious dialogue in many different corners of Myanmar […]. The substantial contributions by researchers from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Yangon are notable in this regard. Such international collaborations have helped to highlight the talent, ambition, technique and adaptability of Myanmar’s social scientists as they have published high-quality research outputs, often related to cultures, histories and places defined by their own family and personal stories.
by Jenny Hedstrom
From journal: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
This collaborative collection […] makes an important and timely contribution to discussions about Myanmar’s changing legal and political landscape. Everyday Justice in Myanmar foregrounds the perspectives and experiences of local communities in accessing and practicing justice, effectively highlighting the diversity of politico-legal orders in Myanmar […]
by Ergün Cakal
From journal: The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law
The book deftly presents its findings with humility about what has evaded understanding. It situates legal consciousness in Myanmar in all its complexities, continuities and polarities, as poised between acknowledgement, avoidance and abandonment. It will without question become a reference point on understanding legal pluralism in Myanmar and possibly beyond.