Legacies of Detention in Myanmar

Partner Institution(s): 
Yangon University, Department of Law, Myanmar
Justice for All, Myanmar
Start Date: 
July 1, 2016
End Date: 
June 30, 2021
Project Type: 
North driven projects
Project Code: 
Total grant: 
DKK 9,990,176
Contact : 
Andrew M. Jefferson

Prisons and detention practices play a fundamental role in modern states in general, and authoritarian and post-authoritarian states, in particular. This project explores the historical and contemporary role of detention in Myanmar and its significance for the reconfiguration of state and society. It will generate field-based knowledge about the history and consequences of detention practices (including structures, policies, institutional arrangements and everyday life) in Myanmar and explore how the contemporary penal system responds to the current political thaw. Using the notion of the legacy to capture the idea of practices of the past having powerful and productive effects through time the project explores how practices of detention persist yet mutate and have consequences for individuals, institutions, state and society. The project will illuminate people’s experiences of detention and the ways in which detention practices contribute to or detract from the establishment and maintenance of democracy and peace. Richly textured descriptions of changing practices of detention will illustrate how state and peace-building processes do not follow a linear, transparent trajectory but are multi-layered and unpredictable. Careful analysis of the experiences, technologies and politics of detention will enable us to explain the ambiguous and contested nature of detention practices and efforts to reform them and offer insights to policy-makers committed to supporting nascent moves toward rule of law and the realization of democracy and human rights. The project features joint research with the Department of Law, Yangon University and the organisation Justice for All as well as organisational, academic and methodological capacity-building. It will promote the application of empirical research and field-based methodologies reinvigorating research-led policy debates and providing important theoretical insights on the relationship between state formation and detention.


First-year report 2016:
The first step in contextualizing imprisonment in Myanmar historically and societally has been the consolidation of the Denmark-based research team under one roof at DIGNITY.
This allows for even closer synergies than originally anticipated. Highlights of the first six months include public launch events in Copenhagen and Yangon and the enthusiastic response to the project by local but not least international actors working in Myanmar. The project launch in Yangon served as a kind of test case for future events and demonstrated in a positive fashion the breadth of the project partner’s network of lawyers and stakeholders.
Additionally, PhD fieldwork was initiated and field visits made by the Principal
Investigator and Post doc researcher enabling the identification of stakeholders, gatekeepers and potential cases for further exploration. A home page was developed including blogs and descriptions of the projects key analytic entry points: experiences, technologies, and politics.

This page was last modified on 05 July 2017

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