Over the past 3 weeks, I have been working hard to gain a basic understanding of how to use geospatial analysis and GIS software for my research on territorial autonomy/ethno-federalism in Bangladesh, NE India, and Myanmar. To that end, I decided to work with QGIS, an open source GIS software. I am using the QGIS training manual alongside a course from Geo Academy, to learn the basics this summer, and hopefully continue onto to advanced/professional competency by the end of next academic year.
In addition to the tutorials and guided exercises, this week I began work on my own project. I combined data on ethnic groups from the "Georeferencing of Ethnic Groups" dataset (GRED).* I added administrative boundaries from DIVA-GIS.
THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. Not only am I just beginning to scratch the surface of what I can do in QGIS, but the GRED is somewhat limiting on its own. This data was created through digitizing the Soviet "Atlas Narodov Mira" (Atlas of the Peoples of the World), published in the late 60s. Not only is it outdated, but I find it extremely doubtful that it would have been accurate in places like Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), NE India, or Myanmar. Is one really to believe that Soviet ethnographers had access to all the nooks and crannies of the world? Furthermore, can we really buy that where the researchers had access they always learned the truth about a given group and its borders? Clearly not. However, it is perfectly reasonable to take this a starting point, which is exactly what I plan on doing.
In subsequent versions of this map, I plan to add data about language groups from Ethnologue's World Language Mapping System (assuming I can get access through IU), data obtained though participant mapping during my fieldwork (AY 2016-17), as well as basic demographic data from national census, etc.
In terms of display, I can't get all the ethnic groups to show up in the JPEG file I have attached here. I will also add some bordering states back in, to make sure that it doesn't look like the subcontinent and Myanmar are an island, surrounded by ocean.
Furthermore, there are some immediately apparent errors. For example: in Bangladesh, Chakmas are not mentioned, and Marma seem to be listed as "Burmese"; in Burma, Arakan/Rakhaine are listed as "Burmese"; in India, Lushai is used in place of Mizo. Some of these omissions have some historical underpinning, but many others are simply wrong. There are also many other errors that I will be working on, but I wanted to specifically note the above to make clear to all the readers that this is NOT AUTHORITATIVE!!!
Now to the actual map:
* Weidmann, Nils B., Jan Ketil Rød and Lars-Erik Cederman (2010). "Representing Ethnic Groups in Space: A New Dataset". Journal of Peace Research, in press.
I would love to here comments on things that I could do to make this map more useful as well as connect with other social scientists studying ethnic conflict through the use of geospatial analysis, GIS software, etc.
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.
On April 9th, I had a short article published online for Asia Pacific Memo. You can see the full memo here. I am starting to look seriously at resource issues, but from the perspective of foreign policy. This memo is my first official step into looking at how international mining investment is influenced by small state foreign policy and security concerns.
In the works: I have drafted another small article comparing Tatarstan, Uighur Xinjiang, and Iraqi Kurdistan's moves for regional autonomy and the role of mineral wealth in these movements. Still working some of the kinks out, but I think it has some potential. More 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.