Property, Citizenship, and Invisible Dispossession in Myanmar's Urban Frontier
Summary, in English
Myanmar’s systematic dispossession of religious and ethnic minorities is well-documented as a tool for counterinsurgency through territorialisation. However, the specifific contours of the relationship between minorities, territorialisation, and urban dispossession remain underexplored. The article argues that legislative changes linking identity, property, and belonging led to widescale invisible dispossession of minorities, through the mechanisms of law, citizenship and bureaucracy. Such dis-possession gave birth to multiple urban frontiers – temporal spaces that break down existing property relations and create new ones through territorialisation. This article explores one such moment in Myanmar’s largest city and former capital, Yangon, through the lens of Islamic pious endowments, or waqf. By positioning Yangon’s post-1988 landscape as an urban frontier, the article shows how legislative changes serve to actively create frontiers in urban centres through legal dispossession and the transformation of property relations. The article develops the concept of the urban frontier as inextricably tied to territorialisation and dispossession, positing that a frontier, as a spatialized moment in time, can exist at geographical centres as well as peripheries.