Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. History Dept.


Arnout van der Meer

Second Advisor

Inga Diederich


The ongoing Rohingya Genocide is the most extreme expression of Burmese identity and has catapulted the nation of Myanmar onto the world stage. This thesis examines the development of a Burmese national identity during British colonial rule through the lens of inter-ethnic conflict between the Bamar ethnolinguistic majority and ethnic minorities living in colonial Myanmar. Through analyzing three different case studies, each representing a watershed expression of Burmese identity, this thesis illustrates how inter-ethnic conflict shaped what it means to be Burmese. Using archival material from the British Library such as political cartoons, government reports, and vernacular newspaper clippings, this thesis demonstrates that Burmese identity became increasingly defined as being part of the Bamar Buddhist majority. Furthermore, this project builds on existing scholarship to illustrate that Burmese nationalists used British conceptions of race to construct a more exclusive Burmese identity. An understanding of how Burmese identity developed during Myanmar's colonial past provides new insights as to why anti-Rohingya sentiment is virtually unchallenged within contemporary Myanmar.


Burma, Myanmar, Nationalism, "Imagined Community, " Riots, "Plural Society"

Included in

Asian History Commons