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Photo Essay: Finding research alleyways in Mandalay

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Photo Essay: Finding research alleyways in Mandalay

Aug 05, 2020

What does it mean to do globally-informed research, at the neighbourhood level, in Southeast Asia?

Our preparation trip to Mandalay for the last SEANNET workshop–originally planned for late June 2020–took place over a short three days in mid-January 202[0. It afforded us glimpses of street life before the coronavirus pandemic emerged.

There is the research methodology: practical field considerations, language access, research team workflows and coordination.

There is the density of everyday life, precarious economies, old architectural forms set within new constructions, and everyday, bureaucratic challenges to overcome.

Assembling a team of interested students and scholars, teachers and learners, to work through the early meanings of what pedagogical research could look like, takes patience.


Patience to seed intentions, draw together camaraderie, establish genuine rapport, and demonstrate dedication to a community.

There is also the patience to work through institutionalised research forms, to produce knowledge with fewer hierarchies and obstacles that impede the flow of curiosity.

Objects and materials, people and play, sundazed dogs and laundry have things in common that aren’t always obvious or noteworthy. But perhaps they show us a different language and new markings of time?

Mandalay is a city of old wealth, an old cultural capital. Perhaps writing and walking alongside colleagues at the neighbourhood level, we can move from the space of global dreams to local concerns. We might then be able to look at the skyline for something else perhaps: something other than the idea of modern reveries of new but replayed concrete dreams.

In addition to old architectural forms, could we gain insight into the forms of labour that arise around them, in the alleyways?

Women workers sifting out sesame seeds for packing and wholesale distribution.