Sally Beckenham is a Lecturer in international relations and environmental politics at Chiang Mai University and an Affiliated Researcher at CMU’s Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development. Her PhD, exploring discourses of identity and the politics of claim-making in post-tsunami India, was part funded by the Leverhulme scholarship and awarded by the Department of War Studies, King’s College London in 2016. Her subsequent research is situated broadly within international relations, particularly drawing on post-structural, postcolonial and interpretive constructivist approaches. Research interests include environmentalism and environmental governance, identity discourse and rights claiming and the politics of indigeneity and cultural heritage in South and Southeast Asia. Collaborative research has included work on transboundary air pollution, opium production and land rights in Northern Thailand in her capacity as Research Fellow in CMU’s Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration. Her CRISEA project, coauthored with Dr. Robert Farnan, investigates how the global discourse of indigeneity informs practices of environmental conservation along the Salween River in Thailand and Myanmar.

Project Summary

This project explores the intersection of infrastructure development, environmentalism and global discourses in the context of the Salween Peace Park (SPP) in Southeast Myanmar. Considerable attention in anthropology and political ecology has been paid to the social and environmental impacts, and the environmental movements, that arise in response to large-scale infrastructure projects and extractive industries, such as the 1,365MW Hatgyi dam on the Salween river. Acting as a technology that reterritorializes the commons, such infrastructures are central to public controversies that risk inflaming conflict and undermining regional integration and security. In this project we seek to sharpen the focus on the role played by global discourses, in particular indigeneity, which increasingly shape the contours of not only these public controversies, but also broader peacebuilding efforts in Myanmar and the role of environmentalists therein. This will enable us to better appreciate the complex interactions linking environmental governance and the political struggle for the commons. It draws from the burgeoning academic literature in critical security and indigeneity studies respectively. In doing so the project goes beyond articulations of enclosure that traditionally inform discussions of the commons, to look at how practices of reterritorialization are being reconfigured by civil society for the purpose of environmental conservation and peacebuilding.