Gillian Cornish, a UQ|UP PhD candidate, together with Elizabeth Rhoads, a PhD candidate at Kings College, recently presented at the ANU’s biannual Myanmar Update.
Their paper investigates how ordinary Yangon residents navigate uncertainty in their day-to-day lives in accessing housing security. They differentiate between legal uncertainty, where legal outcomes are unpredictable or unknowable, and everyday uncertainty, where people struggle to meet immediate daily needs such as access food, clean water, electricity, etc. Examples are provided regarding informal property transfers, speculative land purchases and forced evictions to demonstrate how legal and everyday uncertainty are interrelated.
Yangonites have developed multiple strategies to respond to uncertainty, gain access to needed resources, maintain the status quo and even make progress. Three of these strategies that pertain to property rights and tenure security are provided in the paper: seizing opportunities when and where they arise, hedging bets by taking on multiple engagements, and reliance on social networks to access information and resources.
Yangon was used as an example site due to the city’s particular property complexities, including the extent of which laws are outdated and contradictory, the rampant land speculation and a long history of mass forced evictions and relocations in the city. The paper comments on how the current political transition in the country will affect ordinary citizens and their ability to navigate uncertainties in accessing rights to housing as laws, enforcement of laws and patronage relations change.