In the law & on the land: finding the female farmer in Myanmar’s National Land Use Policy

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This paper draws upon 12 months of activist research in Myanmar to examine how bureaucrats, activists, international development experts and rural women represented the female farmer during an unprecedented public negotiation of a critical agrarian policy. During National Land Use Policy consultations, antagonistic actors learned to behave like experts, rendered technical distinct ontologies of land, law, and gender to produce a bilingual, rights-bearing female farmer in the final text. Rather than identifying as ‘farmers’, however, rural women typically describe themselves as workers or helpers, a gendered identity inscribed in particular and hierarchical relations of land and labor. An emergent class of self-identified female farmers distinguished themselves as capable and independent, but these adopted attitudes were often tied to privileged positions. Understanding the production of these representations and the relationship between them problematizes Myanmar’s purported democratic transition and illustrates the gendered dynamics of agrarian change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1199-1216
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017


  • Burma
  • Myanmar
  • agrarian change
  • democracy
  • gender
  • land


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