Freedom from Fear

THE ASEAN STUDIES CENTER and TRANSCEND (Transnational Challenges and Emerging Nations Dialogue)       

Dr. Ian Holliday

October 16th 2013, 2:00 to 3:15 pm, McDowell Formal Lounge
American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW


In “Freedom from Fear”, published in 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi made a passionate plea for her country and its people to be liberated from tyranny. Two decades on, in 2011, Myanmar’s long-standing military junta finally did give way to a nominally civilian government, and soon thereafter the terrain of liberal freedom unquestionably expanded. Yet today there is still fear in Myanmar. Partly, it is vertical: ongoing fear of the state and its agents. Partly, it is horizontal: resurgent fear of society and the institutions, associations and identities that constitute it. Partly, it is in some sense inbred: deep-seated fear as a habit of mind after so many years of dictatorship. This talk considered how Myanmar’s unfolding reform process is extending freedom across the land, and at the same time how it might address prevalent fear. Drawing chiefly on Judith N. Shklar’s liberalism of fear, Jacob T. Levy’s multiculturalism of fear and Václav Havel’s writings on hope and fear, it examined the policy implications of a political agenda premised above all on freedom from fear in Myanmar. It contrasted this agenda with two competing approaches driven by promotion of human rights, and pursuit of economic development.

Ian Holliday’s research focuses on political reform in Burma/Myanmar. His most recent book is Burma Redux: Global Justice and the Quest for Political Reform in Myanmar (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011). His classroom teaching addresses dilemmas of humanitarian intervention. Each year he also takes around 50 students to Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand to deliver intensive English language training in marginalized and impoverished communities. He was educated as an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge, and as a graduate student at the University of Oxford. From 2006 to 2011, he was Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

This event is supported by SEA-NET (Southeast Asian Student Network), American University.