Rebel Politics: A Political Sociology of Armed Struggle in Myanmar's Borderlands

Brenner, David. 2019. Rebel Politics: A Political Sociology of Armed Struggle in Myanmar's Borderlands. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9781501740091 [Book]

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Abstract or Description

Rebel Politics analyzes the changing dynamics of the civil war in Myanmar, one of the most entrenched armed conflicts in the world. Since 2011, a national peace process has gone hand-in-hand with escalating ethnic conflict. The Karen National Union (KNU), previously known for its uncompromising stance against the central government of Myanmar, became a leader in the peace process after it signed a ceasefire in 2012. Meanwhile, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) returned to the trenches in 2011 after its own seventeen-year-long ceasefire broke down. To understand these puzzling changes, Brenner conducted ethnographic fieldwork among the KNU and KIO, analyzing the relations between rebel leaders, their rank-and-file, and local communities in the context of wider political and geopolitical transformations. Drawing on political sociology, Rebel Politics explains how revolutionary elites capture and lose legitimacy within their own movements and how these internal contestations drive the strategies of rebellion in unforeseen ways. Brenner presents a novel perspective that contributes to our understanding of contemporary politics in Southeast Asia, and to the study of conflict, peace and security, by highlighting the hidden social dynamics and everyday practices of political violence, ethnic conflict, rebel governance and borderland politics.

“Rebel Politics is underpinned by years of extraordinary fieldwork, including unprecedented access to the leaders of some of Myanmar’s ethnic-minority rebel groups. It is a pathbreaking book, essential reading not only for Myanmar-watchers but also anyone interested in insurgencies and state formation.”—Lee Jones, Queen Mary University of London, author of Societies Under Siege

“David Brenner’s book ought to be mandatory reading for any practitioner or academic interested in the issues of peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and borderlands development in Myanmar specifically, and in the country’s social processes and politics more widely.”—Karin Dean, Tallinn University

Item Type:



Conflict, Security, Political Sociology, Civil War, Southeast Asia, Myanmar

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Politics > Centre for Postcolonial Studies


15 October 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Feb 2019 14:03

Last Modified:

16 Oct 2019 13:29


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