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Htet Thiha Zaw

Comparative Politics & Conflict Studies

Dissertation Title: "Building States within Societies: Repression and Education in British Burma"

Committee: Mark Dincecco (chair), Allen Hicken, Nahomi Ichino (Emory), Dan Slater, Marlous van Waijenburg (Harvard)

Summary: My research and teaching interests are substantively situated in comparative political economy and conflict studies, with a regional expertise in Southeast Asia. In my research, I develop formal models, construct original data from archival research, and combine historical research with quantitative analyses to study the interconnections between indigenous political history, state violence, and state education policy.

My dissertation examines the key conditions that historically influenced state development, specifically how states allocate their resources for physical coercion and education provision under significant and chronic fiscal constraints. I do so within the historical context of colonial states (with a focus on British Burma), where such constraints were especially prevalent when compared to the contemporaneous European states. Each of the three dissertation chapters show that pre-colonial indigenous institutions, which were fundamental in shaping state-society relations, explain the spatial and temporal patterns of state violence and state involvement in education in colonial states. They also form a significant part of my book project that investigates the underrepresented yet important role indigenous society and its relationship with the state played in the long-run development of colonial and post-independence contexts, focusing on Burma/Myanmar.

Outside of the dissertation research and book project, my work studies the history of state-society relations regarding education provision in other colonial contexts as well as the impact of state policy on education outcomes. For more information about my research, visit: