American University
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Pulling the State In: Group Structures and the Politics of State-Building in Indian and Burmese Peripheries

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posted on 2023-10-06, 00:50 authored by Min Jung Kim
This dissertation examines the politics of peripheries and state-building in the geographically challenging borderlands of South and Southeast Asian highlands. Departing from prevailing theories of state-building which emphasize the center's capacity and will, I develop an endogenous theory of state-building that focuses on the conditions and dynamics within the peripheries that shape the state-building processes. I argue that group structures, whether fragmented or hegemonic, within peripheral societies are crucial in determining center-periphery dynamics and the center’s state-building response in the postcolonial period. Specifically, the group structures shape the collective action capacities of the periphery and its preference for state collaboration, which in turn constrain the center’s choice for more mediated/centralized rule and its opportunity to extend state visibility throughout the territory. To test this theory, I construct a subnational controlled comparison of two borderlands of India (Nagaland, Mizoram, 1947-89) as the primary case and Burma (Chin and Kachin, 1948-62) as the shadow case. Drawing on extensive archival and interview data collected during thirteen months of fieldwork in 2018-2020 in these remote regions, I find that existing theories of state-building often oversimplify the intricate local conditions that shape political development and the projection of state power in the previously ungoverned hinterlands and that my theory better explains empirical patterns of state-building observed in these cases.



American University



Committee chair

Boaz Atzili

Committee member(s)

Miles Kahler; Keith Darden; Benjamin Hopkins

Degree discipline

International Relations

Degree grantor

American University. School of International Service

Degree level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

Ph.D. in International Relations

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Media type



352 pages

Submission ID


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