Myanmar has been conventionally regarded as one of the most repressive countries in the world. As a result, many scholars, journalists, and human rights organizations understandably focus their attention on the draconian policies of the Myanmarese military regime. When the country makes headlines, the story of events taking place is typically framed in terms of state oppression and direct popular opposition. This leads to a restrictive view of the “political” dimensions of life in Myanmar, an approach to the topic that deals with only a small number of admittedly important subjects: authoritarian governance, organized efforts to bring about systemic change, and the fate of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate whose latest release from house arrest put Myanmarese politics back in the headlines in November 2010. What is left out of the picture—or given only glancing attention—are a host of social, economic, and cultural issues that also have political dimensions and implications, namely the efforts by Myanmarese citizens to carve out space for independent, meaningful action on a personal level. These actions, which have political aspects but stop short of being outright forms of dissent, will be my focus in this essay.

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