A post-colonial Southeast Asian city emerges from decades of military rule and international isolation and opens up to outside investment for the first time in over 50 years. The changes occurring during this transition reveal resilience and adaptability of a people living in difficult circumstances.
In 1948, Burma, now Myanmar, became independent of the United Kingdom and in 1962, a repressive military junta seized control, creating isolation and severe economic decline. In a single century, Myanmar went from the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia to one of the poorest on Earth. In 2011, Myanmar transitioned to a parliamentary system and the government sold over 80 percent of its assets—everything from petrol stations, to rice mills, cinemas, ports, and soy sauce factories. In Yangon, the former capital and largest city in Myanmar, the Yangon City Municipal Committee (YCMC) carried out a city-wide inspection of all buildings over 60 years old, declaring those unfit for habitation as "dangerous."
This article, "Entering Homes: Inside Yangon's Dangerous Buildings," explores changes taking place in the former capital city of Yangon. Despite decades of stagnation, the people of Yangon have crafted a life in the remains of a failed empire, showing resilience and adaptability. A unique result of the military's "path to socialism" was a more equal distribution of living spaces among different classes. The author describes the first street fair in over ten years—Thingyan, the Buddhist Festival of Lights—and interviews three people reluctantly losing their homes which they have lived in for over 50 years. The buildings they live in have either been auctioned off or deemed structurally dangerous, and are scheduled for redevelopment.
Connections to National Standards
Common Core English Language Arts. SL.9-10.1 and SL.11-12.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 [or 11-12] topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. D2.Geo.6.9-12. Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
Next Generation Science Standards. HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.