How do movements against resource extraction projects handle ethnic conflict? In 2011, Burma/Myanmar created a diplomatic scandal when it one-sidedly halted the construction of the Myitsone Dam, derailing China’s then largest-ever hydropower project abroad. Leading up to its suspension, this project faced resistance by Burma’s ethnic majority Bamars as well as by minority ethnic Kachins, even while Kachin–Bamar tensions were rising as a decades-long civil war resumed. Drawing from ethnographic interviews, discourse analysis, and more than two years of fieldwork between 2010 and 2019, this paper traces the multi-ethnic history of resistance to Myitsone Dam, as told through various activists’ own voices. More than from Burma’s democratic transition, environmentalism, or geopolitics, anti-dam resistance emerged from two separate civilian nationalist movements – Kachin and Bamar – that mirrored Burma’s Bamar nationalist domination and ethnic conflict. Yet, resistance partly emerged from difficult inter-ethnic encounters – or, “confluences amidst conflict.” Kachin fears of losing their homeland resembled Bamar fears of Chinese takeover. A rare story amid decades of war and resource grabbing, Myitsone is a struggle over homeland and nature that did not unite, but did link Burma’s clashing nations.


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pp. 229-273
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