1st Edition

Community Welfare Organisations in Rural Myanmar Precarity and Parahita

By Michael P Griffiths Copyright 2020
    232 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    232 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides an in-depth study of the moral economies emerging from within conditions of precarity in rural communities in contemporary Myanmar.

    James C. Scott’s seminal work on ‘The Moral Economy of the Peasant’ argued that peasant notions of subsistence and expectations of reciprocity formed the basis for subsequent rebellion as economic conditions changed and new market forces were introduced. Now, nearly a century on, Michael Griffiths argues that the conditions faced by rural communities in Myanmar remain precarious, but different forms of moral economy shape their responses. In the contemporary context, the moral economy of rural communities is characterized by the emergence of localized, self-organized community welfare associations which adopt a sophisticated iteration of self-help framed by the Buddhist concept of parahita (altruism). This book analyses the performative nature of these welfare organizations as a form of politics, asking how notions of citizenship expressed in these organizations promote more inclusive, or more exclusive practices towards non-Buddhist minorities.

    At a time when discourse on identity in Myanmar has been dominated by practices of othering and exclusion, this book provides an important analysis of what citizenship and reciprocity means in contemporary rural Myanmar. This book is a critical resource for researchers working on rural development and the social sciences in Southeast Asia.

    1. New moral economies of the peasant: rethinking Scott in 21st century Myanmar  2. States of being: a brief background to contemporary Myanmar  3. Widening circles: rural transformation in contemporary Myanmar  4. Precarity and the post-peasant experience  5. Emergent Associations: the assemblage of precarity  6. Performing Parahita : ecologies of redistribution  7. Buddhism, Parahita and the Other: the boundaries of emergent welfare  8. The moral economy of welfare: post-peasant politics and citizenship  Index


    Mike Griffiths has been conducting research on rural development and social protection in Myanmar for over 15 years, regularly advising the national government on poverty reduction strategies and social policy. He is currently working as lead researcher for the Yangon based Social Policy & Poverty Research Group (SPPRG), which has a particular focus on conducting research relevant to emerging government policy. This book is based on his recent PhD thesis, which studied on traditional social protection organizations in Myanmar. Dr. Griffiths teaches multi-disciplinary research methodology at Mandalay University in central Myanmar, and at the University of Yangon, as well as continuing as a Research Associate at the University of Hull.

    "Community Welfare Organisations in Rural Myanmar provides an original and timely analysis of Myanmar at the cusp of change, engaging with important themes of precarity, post-agrarian change and citizenship.
    Through extended ethnography, Michael Griffiths gives a rarely seen, in-depth account of Myanmar’s political and societal transitions, which readers will find both absorbing and insightful."
    – Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho, National University of Singapore, author of Citizens in Motion

    "The waves of change washing across rural Myanmar, positive and negative, are quite easily identified. But local-level societal responses to such changes are frequently missed. In this rich, well-timed and important book, Michael Griffiths explores the role of emergent reciprocal parahita organisations in protecting livelihoods in the context of considerable precarity." – Jonathan Rigg, Chair in Human Geography, University of Bristol