River of Lost Footsteps
Diederik Vandewalle, Adjunct Associate Professor of Business Administration; Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College

For a (now canceled) future alumni trip to Myanmar, I reread one of the very few good political histories of the country — The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma by Thant Myint-U.  Both the title and subtitle of the book hint at the incoherence of how modern Myanmar was created, and at how different ethnic groups within the country have competing narratives of what constitutes the nation formerly known as Burma.  Thant’s recounting of the enduring ethnic conflicts within the country since independence and of the central role the country’s military has played in suppressing dissent at all costs lays bare how little state- and nation-building has taken place in Myanmar—and how the violent persecution and mistreatment of groups like the Rohingya (the reason for Dartmouth’s cancellation of its alum trip) is the outcome of an effort by the military to, in a longstanding divide-and-rule fashion,

create a misguided sense of nationalism in the absence of other means of doing so.