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The Business of Transition: Law Reform, Development and Economics in Myanmar

Edited by Melissa Crouch (forthcoming 2017), Cambridge University Press
This volume offers a timely reflection on law, development and economics through empirical and comparative perspectives on contemporary Myanmar. The central theme of the book is to understand the business that takes place in times of major political change through law and development initiatives and foreign investment. This book identifies the way in which law reform creates new markets, embodies hopes of social engineering and is animated by economic gain. This book is an invitation to think carefully and critically about the intersection between law, development and economics in times of political transition. The chapters in this volume speak to a range of common issues – land rights, access to finance, economic development, the role of law including its potential and its limits, and the intersection between local actors, globalised ideas and the international community. This interdisciplinary book is for students, scholars and practitioners of law and development, Asian Studies, political science and international relations.

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"This is compulsory reading for policy analysts and/or academics interested in the process of business and commercial legal reform. Through the prism of Myanmar – a country at the confluence of geoeconomics, political and economic transition – the contributors to this volume bring to bear theoretical sophistication alongside deep empirical knowledge to explore the business of transition. The book eschews technocratic analysis of legal reform, and instead analyses how social forces such as business, labour, the legal profession as well as political elites and multilateral organisations are engaged in contestations that shape the business of transition. It is essential reading material for anyone wishing to understand the complex dynamics of legal change, not just in Myanmar but in an array transitional economies and polities."   Professor Kanishka Jayasuriya, Murdoch University

“The Business of Transition offers a new and searching critique of the decades-long enterprise of law and development. Myanmar cross-disciplinary specialists in law and markets superbly question glib conventionalities, boldly encounter intricate complexities, and refuse to be locked into formulaic answers. Through intensive case studies the authors skillfully explore the complex, fraught and sometimes paradoxical interplay between international donors and advisors and domestic actors, whether political elites, businesses, non-profits, civil society or local communities.  Every specialist in globalization, law and markets will benefit greatly from thoughtful engagement with this excellent volume as it reveals again the intricacy and particularity of every country’s encounter with the transnational and global.” Professor Terence Halliday, Center on Law and Globalization, American Bar Foundation

“Myanmar provides a particularly instructive context for exploring the relationship between law and development as it undergoes two dramatic and simultaneous transitions:  from military rule to semi-democracy, and from socialism to a market economy.  The essays in this volume make a compelling case that “best practices” transplanted from foreign jurisdictions provide limited purchase on the unique challenges that such transitions entail and imply more modesty than has often been the case on the part of external agencies in promoting their conception of an appropriate law reform agenda.” Professor Michael Trebilcock, University of Toronto

“The contributors to this volume, diverse in origin, expertise and experience, blend to give an insightful commentary on and exposition of the present realities and future possibilities of this unique transitional economy. It places contemporary empirical data in a broader context. Its coverage of economic, legal, social, political, moral and humanitarian issues as well as the examination of the interaction between domestic, regional and international regimes make this a book that should be on the shelves of scholarly and business readers alike.'
Mary E. Hiscock - Emeritus Professor of Law, Bond University, Australia


Available for order here
Islam and the State in Myanmar: Muslim-Buddhist Relations and the Politics of Belonging
Edited by Melissa Crouch, 2016, Oxford University Press

The edited volume aims to reinvigorate scholarship on Islam in Myanmar, to explore the diversity within the Muslim community, to offer new empirical research, and to bring a scholarly perspective and insight into complex issues raised by the position of Muslims where they form a minority in states across Asia. It brings together a wide range of scholars from Burma Studies, Islamic studies and a wide range of other disciplines – international relations, political science, history, law and anthropology. Importantly, it also features a number of chapters by Muslim scholars from Myanmar, some based in Myanmar while others are based abroad, who represent a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds. My own chapter focuses on Islamic personal law in the general courts in Myanmar as a site of interaction between Muslims and the state.


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“This highly informative yet eminently accessible set of studies of Islam in Burma/Myanmar is surely most welcome by specialists and general audiences alike at multiple levels. These thoughtful and authoritative studies of the mediation of competing claims in national politics and policy are celebrated for defying the myth of the orthodoxy of Middle Eastern Islam and its pretensions of Islamic states."
Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na‘im, Emory University Law School and author of Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia (2008).

"For all too long, Muslims in Burma/Myanmar have remained an ‘invisible minority’, and the attention they’ve begun to receive in recent years has come only in the sad context of persecution and violence. This book succeeds not only in providing much needed historical, sociological, and political contextualisation of recent developments and trends, but also in restoring Islam and Muslims to their rightful place as established fixtures and active forces in the making of Burmese history and society. Melissa Crouch and the other authors in this volume have done a great service – intellectually and politically – by assembling this excellent collection of essays.
Professor John Sidel, London School of Economics and Political Science and author of  Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia (Cornell University Press)

"A first glimpse of Muslims in Myanmar, this book sets the stage for what will hopefully become a new field of research on Islam in Southeast Asia. Bringing together a wide range of voices, Crouch provides a window from which we can peer into the precarious lives of people who have until recently been unknown to the global, reading public.
Professor Anver Emon, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and author of Islamic Natural Law Theories, and Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law: Dhimmis and Others in the Empire of Law (OUP).

In a field of scholarship where it is assumed that Buddhism is the primary influence on the state and the majority of Myanmar’s citizens, this book makes an important intervention in breaking ground for the further study of a minority group in Myanmar that is not only marginalized politically but virtually ignored academically."
Dr Matthew Walton, Aung San Suu Kyi Senior Research Fellow in Modern Burmese Studies, St Antony's College, University of Oxford

Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar
Edited by Melissa Crouch and Tim Lindsey, 2014 Hart Publishing

This is the first edited volume to address the dynamics of the legal system of Myanmar/Burma in the context of the transition to democracy. It includes contributions from leading scholars in the field on a range of key legal issues now facing Myanmar, such as judicial independence, constitutional law, human rights and institutional reform. It features chapters on the legal history of Myanmar; electoral reform; the role of the judiciary; economic reforms; and the state of company law. It also includes chapters that draw on the experiences of other countries to contextualise Myanmar's law reform process in comparative setting, including Myanmar's participation in regional bodies such as ASEAN. This topical book comes at a critical juncture in Myanmar's legal development and will be an invaluable resource for students and academics seeking greater understanding of the legal system of Myanmar. It will also be vital reading for a wide range of government, business and civil society organisations seeking to re-engage with Myanmar, as it navigates the challenges of transition towards democracy and the rule of law.
Note: this book is also available for purchase in Myanmar from the Myanmar Book Centre, and Monument Books in Yangon.


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"With chapters contributed by renowned legal experts and specialists on Myanmar, it explains how law is understood in Myanmar and how it works in practise"
"...this volume will serve as a good reference work for scholars interested in Myanmar by highlighting the importance of legal reform in its nascent transition."
U Chit Win, PhD candidate at ANU; Deputy Director from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Naypyidaw; in Australian Journal of Administrative Law (2015) 22: 199-200
UNSW Newsletter, Uniken Winter 2015 review
Reviewed by Moe Thuzar (2016), Contemporary Southeast Asia
Reviewed by Mahdev Mohan (2015), Asian Journal of Comparative Law

Law and Religion in Indonesia: Conflict and the Courts in West Java
Melissa Crouch, 2013, Routledge

Understanding and managing inter-religious relations, particularly between Muslims and Christians, presents a challenge for states around the world. This book investigates legal disputes between religious communities in the world’s largest majority-Muslim, democratic country, Indonesia. It examines how the interaction between state and religion has influenced relations between religious communities in the transition to democracy.

The book presents original case studies based on empirical field research of court disputes in West Java, a majority-Muslim province with a history of radical Islam. These include criminal court cases, as well as cases of judicial review, relating to disputes concerning religious education, permits for religious buildings and the crime of blasphemy.The book argues that the introduction of democracy has increased the politicization of religion. It highlights the way in which disputes since 1998 have been localized through the decentralization of power and exacerbated by the central government’s ambivalent attitude towards radical Islamists who disregard the rule of law.

The book examines the challenge facing governments to accommodate minorities and manage religious pluralism, and furthers understanding of state-religion relations in the Muslim world. This accessible and engaging book is of interest to students and scholars of law and society in Southeast Asia; Islam and the state; politics of the courts; and the legal regulation of religious diversity.


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Dr Stijn Huis (2016), Oxford Journal of Law and Religion
"This book makes a very valuable and significant contribution to the discourse on democracy and legal development in Indonesia where religion, Islam in particular, plays a vital role." Journal of Islamic Studies (OUP, 2015), by Professor Euis Nurlaelawati, State Islamic University, Indonesia
“This book is valuable as a study of the evolving character of extremist Islam in Indonesia, but its more important contribution lies in what it reveals about Indonesian democracy and the underdeveloped state of the Indonesian legal system. Crouch shows that… the key to Islamists’ success in the use of the legal system lies in their ability to exploit the system’s weaknesses.” Professor Mark Cammack (2015), 'Book Review of Law and Religion in Indonesia' in Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia) 3: 377-379
Husni Mubarak (2014) ‘Babak Baru Ketegangan Islam dan Kristen di Indonesia’ 21(3) Studia Islamika (Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies) 579-600. or see the link to short version of the article here.
Kikue Hamayotsu (2014) ‘Conservative Turn? Religion, State and Conflict in Indonesia’ 87 (4) Pacific Affairs, 815-825.

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