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Conscription by capture in the Wa State of Myanmar: acquaintances, anonymity, patronage, and the rejection of mutuality

Steinmüller, Hans (2018) Conscription by capture in the Wa State of Myanmar: acquaintances, anonymity, patronage, and the rejection of mutuality. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 63 (1). ISSN 0010-4175 (In Press)

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Capturing people, sometimes by taking relatives hostage, is a common practice for the purpose of conscription and law enforcement in the Wa State of Myanmar. Given the relative weakness of civil government, census and register, in a de-facto state governed by an insurgent army, the personal politics of capture provides a functional equivalent to state legibility. This personal politics operates on the basis of the re-organisation of personal networks between representatives of the military state and ordinary people: first, circles of acquaintances within the military state which provide access to local knowledge; and second, relationships of patronage formed on the basis of those new acquaintanceships, as well as connections of kinship and co-residence. Conscription by capture, however, also requires anonymity, i.e. the passive non-recognition of mutuality with strangers, and the active refusal of mutuality with acquaintances. This article describes the historical emergence of networks of acquaintances and relationships of patronage as a combination of Maoist state building and local institutions of war capture and adoption, and demonstrates how conscription by capture relies both on the relationships of acquaintances and non-recognition, as well as patronage and the refusal of mutuality. The politics of conscription by capture are contrasted with conscription in imperial states and contemporary nation-states.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2018 15:16
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2019 00:08

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