Myanmar Update 2021: Living with the pandemic

Call for papers

Proposals are due by Monday January 31 2021. The conference is scheduled for 15-17 July 2021 and will be held at the Australian National University in Canberra and streamed online at the University of Yangon.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed things everywhere. It is still too early to say what the full effects of the pandemic will be on Myanmar. The country has no recent comparators for this, which presents not only exceptional public health challenges but unprecedented social, political and economic pressures. And unlike its neighbours, Myanmar was relatively unaffected by other recent exogenous shocks - the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s and its global equivalent a decade later had little impact on what was then a country in isolation. It is no longer.

If our theme for the Myanmar Update in 2019 was ‘living with Myanmar’ then this time around it can but be living with a pandemic. We already know that the first general election with the National League for Democracy as incumbent government will be held in the time of COVID-19. We also know that hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of Myanmar nationals earning money abroad will have returned home, their foreign jobs decimated by the virus. And we have reason to think that the virus will inflame rather than ease the unstable conditions that give rise to armed conflict in the country’s frontier regions, and set the already remote prospects for the return of a million or more refugees in Bangladesh even further back than they might already have been.

Scheduled from 15-17 July 2021, this Myanmar Update will be different from any that has come before. This will be a hybrid event held simultaneously in two locations: Canberra and Yangon. Working with counterparts in Myanmar, we will bring groups of researchers and collaborators in each location together with one another, and small in-person audiences, into conversation with larger ones online to work through the immediate and longer term consequences of the pandemic on Myanmar’s nascent democratic turn, and on its program for political and economic reform. Will the pandemic be a barrier to nation-building with federal democracy? Will it hinder the ongoing peace process? Can there be possible room for collaboration between civilian and military institutions in order to refrain from social unrest? And what about the longer term agenda for national development? Does the virus bring opportunities as well as threats, and if so, what of those?


Paper proposals

The Myanmar Update convenors welcome proposals from academic and professional researchers for papers and panels on any topic that addresses the exigencies of Myanmar in the time of the pandemic. We are particularly interested in proposals related to the politics or economics of the virus in Myanmar; its public health implications; its racial or gendered dimensions; and on its geopolitical effects—on how the pandemic might bring Myanmar closer to or further away from its neighbours.

As in previous years, the conference program will be predominantly in English with one or more panels in Burmese. Proposals may be submitted in either of these two languages. Paper proposals should not exceed 200 words (or half a page in Burmese). Panel proposals may have three or four papers listed, plus a panel abstract of no more than 200 words. The panel abstract and paper proposals should be submitted as a single file, for a total number of words of 800 (for three papers) to 1000 (for four papers).

Accepted papers will need to be followed by a full draft paper of 6000-8000 words (or 15 to 20 pages in Burmese), submitted to the convenors by Monday 19 April 2021. A selection of papers will be published in the Myanmar Update conference volume, as part of the Myanmar Update series (ISEAS Press). For publications from the Update series, visit this webpage.

To submit a proposal, please email your paper or panel abstract in PDF format to


About the Update series

The Myanmar (Burma) Update is a major venue at which to present cutting-edge scholarship on political, social and economic affairs in Myanmar. Now in its third decade, it is one of only two longstanding, regularly held international conferences on the country, and is alone in routinely publishing papers presented at the conference. It is one of a range of Update conferences held at the Australian National University on countries across Asia and the Pacific.

Details of previous Myanmar Updates and publications are available on this website.

For further information, please contact the conveners at

  • Charlotte Galloway, Director, ANU Myanmar Research Centre
  • Dinith Adikari, PhD Candidate, School of Culture, History and Language, ANU
  • Jonathan Liljeblad, Senior Lecturer, ANU College of Law
  • Nick Cheesman, Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, ANU

Photographs by Polina Polianskaja.

Date & time

Thursday, July 15, 2021 to Saturday, July 17, 2021


MRC conveners
Paper proposals due: Monday January 31 2021

Updated:  7 October 2016/Responsible Officer:  Director, Myanmar Research Centre/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team