The central themes of Mart Virand’s research revolve around political belonging and legitimate authority in fragmented borderscapes of contemporary Kachin State. In his ethnography, he uses schools as privileged sites for examining how the political community – in the widest sense of the term – is reproduced, nourished, contested, and transformed.
Formal mass education, as one of the most extensive institutions of the modern state through which the latter socializes populations in its territories according to particular political projects, constitutes one of his key points of interest. In the context of Kachin State, this would include multiple competing systems that are characterized by mutual inter-dependence and ideological antagonism. (Quasi-)State organizations in the region have developed in a long tradition of insurgency. This militarized legacy still informs local visions of governance today. Working alongside the state(s), faith based organizations command an equally extensive reach and play an instrumental role in processes of socialization.
Emergent civil society adds further complexity to the situation. Its leaders increasingly advocate their own visions of citizenship and social development partly premised on traditional cultural values but also informed by competing modern paradigms. Like military elites and clergy, this third class makes use of schooling for social development.