Struggling in between: the everyday practice of weaving Shan home territory along the Thai-Burma border

PhD defended at: 

University of Sussex on 26th Sept.2015


Wen-Ching Ting



The overall aim of this study is to explore the relations between home-places, mobility
and social networks through the home-making of displaced Shan in limbo, and to see
how they negotiate belonging during their displacement along the Thai-Burma border.
This study highlights how displaced Shan remember, reconstruct and represent homeplaces
they left behind and their physically fragmented journeys that led them from
home-places to in-between border areas.

Furthermore, the study sets out to discover how Shan placed their displacement by
repairing their social ties and (re)constructing a feeling of at-homeness. This refers to the
issues of how they dealt with their status of Stratified Others from the perspective of
state institutions. It demonstrates how the displaced Shan live a double life with a series
of tactical practices against their subordinate and oppressed positions. In this sense,
although it does not deny displaced people’s vulnerability, it sees them as having
significant control over their lives, rather than as passive objects or “victims” (Brun: 18).
This active role as a tactical agent engaged in the search for security highlights how
migrants re-establish themselves and their families in society, differently from those who
have citizenship and can travel freely and enjoy their membership (citizenship).

Finally, the study also examines how displaced Shan develop and maintain their social
connections within and beyond their effective spatial incarceration. They create multilayered
constellations of social relations by ‘weaving’ social relations through space,
creating translocal linkages. This constellation of social relations can be regarded as
displaced Shan’s fluid translocal lived space forming their ‘home territory’ beyond
national borders in the face of their protracted displacement. This human-orientated
perspective challenges the notion of state-centred ‘national territory’ to (re)construct
Shan’s place affiliation and create a base for their future generations.

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