University of Oulu

Mostafanezhad, M., Sebro, T., Prasse-Freeman, E., & Norum, R. (2022). Surplus precaritization: Supply chain capitalism and the geoeconomics of hope in Myanmar’s borderlands. Political Geography, 95, 102561.

Surplus precaritization : supply chain capitalism and the geoeconomics of hope in Myanmar’s borderlands

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Author: Mostafanezhad, Mary1; Sebro, Tani2; Prasse-Freeman, Elliott3;
Organizations: 1University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Department of Geography & Environment, 2424 Maile Way, Saunders Hall, 415, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
2Humboldt State University, Department of Politics, One Harpst St., Arcata, CA 95521, USA
3National University Singapore, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, AS1 #03-06, 11 Arts Link, 117570, Singapore
4Oulu University, Department of Anthropology, P.O.Box 8000, Oulu, FI-90014, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-08-02


The Thai-Myanmar border represents one of the most protracted displacement situations in the world, while the Myanmar-Bangladesh border is now home to nearly one million displaced Rohingya, making it the world’s most populated refugee camp. During the period of “democratic transition,” pre-emptively terminated by the February 2021 military coup, foreign direct investment continued to flow into Myanmar despite ongoing humanitarian crises. Rather than being presented as exacerbating ethnic tension, economic development was frequently deployed as a panacea for conflict in ways that rendered borderland residents increasingly precarious. In this article, we draw on multi-sited ethnographic research carried out between 2014 and 2020 in Myanmar’s borderlands and along the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor to examine how aid donors’ support for displaced ethnic minority populations is supplanted by widespread geoeconomic hope for the ameliorating effects of capitalism. We home in on the role of aid flight, special economic zones, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative to argue that geoeconomic hope surrounding Myanmar’s deepening integration into circuits of global capital obscures processes of surplus precaritization in which populations progressively approach the point at which they become absolutely surplus or beyond reabsorption into labor markets. The article contributes to emerging scholarship on migrant labor exploitation, supply-chain capitalism and the geoeconomics of BRI in Myanmar’s borderlands and beyond.

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Series: Political geography
ISSN: 0962-6298
ISSN-E: 1873-5096
ISSN-L: 0962-6298
Volume: 95
Article number: 102561
DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2021.102561
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 519 Social and economic geography
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (