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Abstract

The thesis addresses the role of WWII as a ‘globalising’ event that shaped state-making, governance, culture(s) and space in colonial frontiers overlapping China-India-Myanmar. Rather than a history of warfare, it outlines how wartime events and conditions shaped political engagements in the region. These have fashioned securitisation, bordering and development in the post-colonial decades. The thesis addresses the paradox that despite the experience of a global war, the region became framed as ‘marginal’ and ‘remote’, which has justified uneven development and pervasive conflicts continuing up to the present. Colonial cultural knowledge became intertwined with transnational military knowledge and technology which produced unique re-calibrations of governance here. The analytical concepts of loyalty and morale were used to interpret a peculiar vocabulary of state-making that emerged during the war. This vocabulary was appropriated by local populations in order to negotiate with the state. The analysis revealed certain modes of governance which have implications for understanding the immediate and long-term post-colonial state-making, since new hierarchies, vested interests and stakes emerged. The performative and ritualised nature of both violence and proclaiming sovereignty through idioms of culture indicates features of state-making and explains stakes of resistance to it that have endured till today. The thesis ultimately shows that WWII had a more profound impact in shaping the conflict-ridden history and messy decolonisation in the region than currently recognised, and bridges the epistemic divide between studies of South and Southeast Asia.

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