Reproducing Revolution: A Feminist Political Economy Analysis Of The Conflict In Kachinland


Jenny Hedström

PhD defended at: 

Monash University


How has the Kachin conflict been sustained for so long given the limited resources available to the Kachin Independence Organization / Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) to wage war against a strong state and government military force? Through the lens of gender, the household and social reproduction this thesis addresses this question and asks further: in what ways does the political economy of the household support the maintenance of the non-state armed group, and by extension, the armed struggle, and what is the impact of this gendered political economy on women? Framed by feminist political economy framework and using the Kachin civil war as a case study, this thesis examines how a gendered division of labour, power and resources in the household can be mobilised to generate material, emotional and symbolic support for armed conflict. The primary research for this thesis involved field research interviews between November 2015 and January 2018 in Kachin communities residing in both Thailand and Myanmar. Analysis of women’s experiences of, and reactions to, the conflict in Kachinland provided opportunities to explore the gender and household dynamics of conflict. The findings of this research demonstrate the significance of the household in mobilisation, recruitment and maintenance of armed war. The concept of militarised social reproduction is developed to capture the multiple ways in which women’s everyday labour in both the household and the army is instrumentalised to sustain the Kachin armed forces. This thesis reveals how women’s undervalued work resources war; sustaining the individual soldier, the Kachin army and the Kachin nation. The exclusion of women or gender analyses from the study of conflict in Myanmar hinders scholarly explanation and understanding of the longevity of the conflict in Kachinland. This thesis’ focus on Kachin women’s experiences of conflict thus expands both the theoretical and empirical horizon of current scholarship on Myanmar.