Robert Farnan is lecturer in Social Science and Development at Chiang Mai University and received a PhD in War Studies from King’s College London in 2016. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Myanmar and Thailand. His ongoing research in International Political Sociology explores the intersection of conflict, security and development, with particular focus on environmental governance, resource extraction, and the politics of infrastructure and logistics in Southeast Asia. He recently completed a Thailand Research Fund project entitled “Infrastructural Violence, Logistical Governance, and Practices of Transparency along the East-West Economic Corridor, Thailand and Myanmar”. Recent publications include: “Indigenous Resistance as Irregular Warfare: the Role of Kachin Forces in SOE and OSS Covert Operations during the Burma Campaign”. Chapter in Unknown Conflicts of the Second World War: Forgotten Fronts. London and New York: Routledge, 2019. & “Urban Resilience and the Neoliberal Subject of Climate Change in Thailand”. Asian Review, 30(2), 2017, pp. 31-55. His CRISEA project, co-authored with Dr. Sally Beckenham, 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.