Lecture: The Crisis of Moral Authority in Burma’s Human Rights Tragedy


Location: C103 Hesburgh Center

The global media has drawn attention to the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine State, Burma/Myanmar, calling it the most pressing human rights crisis in the region. Despite the hopes placed in Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of government in the new democracy, as the defender of human rights and Burma’s voice of moral and political leadership, she has remained perplexingly silent on the matter of Rohingya suffering. Meanwhile an outspoken ultra-nationalist faction of Burma’s Buddhist monks has fomented anti-Muslim sentiment and called for a defense of the religion and the Burmese race against foreign influences.

In this talk, Prof. Ingrid Jordt explores the Rohingya crisis as a lens through which to analyze Burma’s re-entry into world politics after more than half a century of political, economic and cultural isolation. Drawing on historical and cultural understandings of power and moral authority in Buddhist Burma I show how a secular global ethical charter for human rights confronts a Burmese-Buddhist ethical framework of cosmological alignment and religious moral authority. The interests of regional national actors in South and Southeast Asia are also considered for how they contribute to shaping the regional and global politics of responsibility toward the Rohingya human rights tragedy.

Ingrid Jordt is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program for Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Originally published at