After a years’ worth of flip-flopping on how best to develop my research interests, I have finally come to a couple of conclusions. While I would normally leave my “scholar-soul searching” outside of the Small Matters @Miliatematters.com world, it is my hope that these new directions will influence the nature of the pieces I post here and elsewhere, so consider this the official announcement and warning of the changes to come.
In contrast to the pure area studies scholar, I never had any intention of studying Mongolia to the exclusion of other countries. While I am grateful for the amazing depth of knowledge that Mongolists make available, I also think that comparative work can broaden not only the applicability of my research and expand my ability to find general patterns, but can also contribute to development of a more…personal nature. To that end, and to avoid entering into a larger methodology-centric post (which is forthcoming), I am happy to announce that I will begin studying Burmese this summer at UW-Madison and will likely start Bengali the coming academic year.
The Mongolia-Myanmar connection has been noted by a number of scholars of contemporary Mongolia. Last year, my article on Mongolian-Myanmar relations was posted in The Diplomat. Dr. Julian Dierkes posted a short comparative chart on our blog, Mongolia Focus. The Mongolist author Brain White also visited Myanmar with an eye to looking at possible points of commonality. Dr. Daniel Lynch has been encouraging this move since I casually mentioned it several years ago. My own interests are clear to any follower of the website: small state foreign policy and indigenous self-determination.
I think that this move into inter-regional, comparative work will make a huge difference in my professional opportunities. Not only does it mean that I will likely have the opportunity to study at Australia National University with Dr. Nicholas Farrelly after comps, it will also put me at a critical intersection between South-Southeast Asia, meaning that I will be able to approach Myanmar through India and ASEAN, adding two crucial regions in addition to my already well-developed expertise in Mongolia.
Over the next couple of years, I will be shifting tracks to begin developing some substantive knowledge on the region. While this might mean a little less emphasis on Mongolia, I will still be working on the Foreign Policy Roundup and following developments as I can. Furthermore, the move is explicitly comparative; Mongolia is going to be part of my general area of expertise for a long time to come.
Analysis, Thoughts, Ideas
This blog will be an online publishing site for smaller analytical projects, news stories that I find relevant to small state foreign policy and indigenous autonomy, as well as a testing ground for new ideas and new projects that I may pursue.