Building Burma: Constructing Rangoon's Urban Influence on Citizenship and Nationhood

Michael Sugarman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
278 Downloads (Pure)


While Burma has often been discussed at the margins of South and Southeast Asian historiography, contemporary scholarship has begun to construct Burma as central to wider regional and inter‐Asian histories. This essay considers how notions of nationhood and citizenship relating to Rangoon's urban environment can begin to be understood in light of recent historical work on other Asian port cities. Looking at published work on Asian cities like Bombay, Hong Kong, and Singapore, this article constructs a contextual framework from which Rangoon's role in building a Burmese identity can be analysed. Nikhil Rao's House, But No Garden on Bombay offers a productive means through which a middle‐class and commercial Burmese identity could be constructed in Rangoon's pre‐war ‘suburbs’, while Alan Smart's The Shek Kip Mei Myth on Hong Kong and Loh Kah Seng's Squatters into Citizens on Singapore provide a way of understanding the role that disaster and crisis play on forming identities of belonging and citizenship among the poorest sections of Rangoon's war torn post‐war society. These cities, along with others across the Indian Ocean world – each with a long, continuous and often separate tradition of historical inquiry – can then help begin to build an understanding of citizenship and nationhood in Burma as it relates to the construction of Rangoon's urban environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-69
Number of pages11
JournalHistory Compass
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2016


  • South Asia
  • Southeast Asia
  • East Asia
  • Bombay
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Rangoon
  • Urban Studies
  • Nationalism
  • Citizenship
  • housing history
  • port cities


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