Laur KIIK - Tokyo College
Postdoctoral Fellow


Research Field Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, Natural Resources, Wildlife;
Kachin people, Burma (Myanmar), China, and India;
Interdisciplinary Asian Studies, Anthropology, Biodiversity Conservation
Email laur.kiik[a]
01 Description of Research

The global environmental crisis, revival of nationalism, and China’s rise are each changing our world. But how do they connect?

I explore these connections in a large but understudied region where China and India meet Burma (Myanmar), a country that has not had a day of peace since the Second World War. These subtropical highlands are a patchwork of Christian and Buddhist peoples and nationalist movements, amid exceptional natural resources and biodiversity.

Specifically, I have done ethnographic research among Kachin people since 2010, focusing on their war-time encounters with: 1) the Burmese inter-ethnic conflict; 2) Chinese-led natural resource economies; and 3) Western-led wildlife conservation.

On wildlife conservation more broadly, my publications have explored the roles of the humanities and social sciences, especially ethnography, and of self-reflection.

Overall, this research shows how people’s suffering and nature’s demise can become so entangled that they cannot be understood separately. Thus, I try to integrate insights from across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. 

Please feel welcome to email me to discuss shared interests:

02 Short Biography

2022– Postdoctoral Fellow, Tokyo College, The University of Tokyo, Japan

2021 PhD, Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK

2013–2016 Researcher, Southeast Asian Studies, Tallinn University, Estonia

2012 MA, Anthropology, Columbia University, USA

2010– Teacher, Kachin community-based colleges, Burma/Myanmar

2009 BA, Asian Studies, Tallinn University, Estonia

2008 Diploma in Chinese language, Beijing Foreign Studies University, China

03 Publications and Other Research Activities

(1) Nature & Nationalism amid War: Kachin, Burma, China: 

(a) The Myitsone Dam Mega-Project:

2020 Confluences amid Conflict: How Resisting China’s Myitsone Dam Project Linked Kachin and Bamar Nationalisms in War-Torn Burma. Journal of Burma Studies 24 (2): 229–273.

2020 Inter-National Conspiracy? Speculating on the Myitsone Dam Controversy in China, Burma, Kachin, and a Displaced Village. Geopolitics 28 (1): 72–98.

2017 (co-authors: Foran et al). Large Hydropower and Legitimacy: A Policy Regime Analysis, Applied to Myanmar. Energy Policy 110: 619–30.

2016 Nationalism and Anti-Ethno-Politics: Why ‘Chinese Development’ Failed at Myanmar’s Myitsone Dam. Eurasian Geography and Economics 57 (3): 374–402.

(b) Nationalism and Natural Resources:

2016 Conspiracy, God’s Plan, and National Emergency: Kachin Popular Analyses of the Ceasefire Era and its Resource Grabs. In War and Peace in the Borderlands of Myanmar: The Kachin Ceasefire, 1994–2011, edited by M. Sadan, 205–235. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.

(2) Wildlife Conservation & Human Studies:

2022 (co-authors: Pienkowski et al). Recognizing Reflexivity among Conservation Practitioners. Conservation Biology.

2022 (co-authors: Fair et al). Dodo Dilemmas: Conflicting Ethical Loyalties in Conservation Social Science Research. Area.

2019 Conservationland: Toward the Anthropology of Professionals in Global Nature Conservation. Critique of Anthropology 39 (4): 391–419.

2018 Wild-ing the Ethnography of Conservation: Writing Nature’s Value and Agency In. Anthropological Forum 28 (3): 217–235.