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Capsule Review

Turmoil in Burma: Contested Legitimacies in Myanmar

In This Review

Turmoil in Burma: Contested Legitimacies in Myanmar

Turmoil in Burma: Contested Legitimacies in Myanmar
By David I. Steinberg
EastBridge, 2006 370 pp. $24.95 Purchase

Steinberg is a leading American authority on Burma/Myanmar, and so anything he writes on that complex and troubled country deserves attention, but this book is truly exceptional as both a country study and a work of social science. Steinberg impressively demonstrates that the question of legitimacy goes to the heart of most problems of political and social development in Myanmar/Burma. It is conventional to randomly alternate the order in which the two names are used -- as Steinberg does -- to show that one is striving to be nonpartisan. That highlights the problem of legitimacy, with the junta, which came to power through a coup, insisting on Myanmar, while the leader of the democratic opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, holds that the name should be Burma. The issue of contested legitimacies runs throughout the history of the country. By focusing on the issues of legitimacy, Steinberg is able both to tell the story of the country's development in rich detail and to bring to light new features in that history.

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