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Professor Mandy Sadan

Dr Mandy Sadan

Contact details

Email: Mandy dot Sadan at warwick dot ac dot uk
Tel.: +44 (0) 24765 23290
Room: R3.14, Ramphal Building

Office hours: By arrangement.

Because my days on campus vary throughout the term, please contact me to arrange an in-person or Teams meeting.



I joined the School in August 2020, coming from the Oxford School of Global & Area Studies at the University of Oxford, where I was a Senior Research Fellow and affiliated with St Antony's College.

After studying History at Oxford, I completed an MA (Art History & Archaeology) and a Ph.D. (History) at SOAS University of London. In 2008, I joined the History department at SOAS and spent 10 years there, during which time I taught and supervised students interested in history, anthropology, art history, politics, and the development of southeast Asia.

My doctoral research built upon time spent living in Myanmar in the mid-1990s, working with local researchers from the Kachin State in the north of the country. I learned how important culture and heritage were to community well-being and development, as well as how politically complex these issues are. This research was published by Oxford University Press and the British Academy in 2013 as Being and Becoming Kachin: Histories Beyond the State in the Borderworlds of Burma. It was awarded the inaugural EuroSEAS Nikkei Asian Review Prize for Best Book in the Humanities in 2015.

My work in Burma/Myanmar has been ongoing for more than 25 years and I continue to be actively involved in research, teaching, and training in the Kachin region. I am committed to using my work to support the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals in these regions in ways that are meaningful to local people.

I have wide interdisciplinary interests but am particularly interested in life story and oral history research methods, the connections between conflict and susceptibility to drug-related harms among young people in marginalized communities, gendered economies of illicit trades, and the importance of humanities education in sustainable development and peacebuilding.

I am interested in supporting PhD students whose work intersects with my teaching and research interests, although I am open to differing interpretations about how those connections could be made and reflecting that learning will be a 2-way process!


Although I will be on research leave during 2022-25, with limited teaching responsibilities that will be mainly focused on PhD supervision, I am passionate about my role as a teacher and continually strive to improve my practice. Before undertaking my doctoral research, I had a 10-year career in post-compulsory education in the UK and internationally. I worked in community and in refugee education in the UK, as well as a host of public and private educational institutions in the UK, the West Bank, Japan, Thailand, and Myanmar, where I worked for the British Council.

I undertook training in Technology Enhanced Learning (PGCert ODE) with the Open University in 2010, and completed a PGCE Post-Compulsory Education with Activate Learning and Oxford Brookes University in 2019-21. I am interested in how research-intensive universities can support UK state schools to diversify their curricula and have previously worked with the OCR (Oxford Cambridge RSA) awarding body on a project to help diversification and inclusivity at A' Level. I am particularly interested in working with schools to learn how we can improve the transition for students when they enter university to support inclusion, well-being, and success. I am also passionate about supporting higher education development in the areas where I research, especially in the Myanmar borderlands and the wider Himalayan zone.


    During 2022-25 I will be engaged full-time on a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship. You can find out more about my project hereLink opens in a new window.

    Although my primary discipline is history, I have training in art history, endangered language documentation, visual and material anthropology, and digital humanities, and I am driven by the need to bring the humanities more fully into interdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development.

    My recent research activities deal with issues such as the illicit trans-border commodity trade in jadeite between Myanmar and China, including perceptions of environmental destruction and contested notions of heritage. I am also actively engaged in local research partnerships looking at the social and cultural impact of drug production and drug-related harms in communities seeking to escape from cycles of political violence in Myanmar. This project also develops comparative analysis with research partners in Afghanistan, and Colombia.

    My research engages directly with the challenge of trying to ensure that local communities become central to solutions-focused policy-making, especially in relation to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). My role in all of them is to demonstrate the importance of historical and humanities-oriented research in supporting locally grounded sustainable development and peacebuilding, especially politically, educationally, and culturally marginalized borderland communities. For this reason, too, I am passionate about the role that life story and oral history research can play in supporting local people to have a stronger voice in development policy.

    My most recent projects, funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), include:

    2021 - 2022 "Rare Earths in the Just Transition: Connecting Global Inequalities in REE Commodity Chains"Link opens in a new window. (PI) British Academy fund Just Transitions within Sectors & Industries Globally - £94,318.00 (COVJT210014)

    My collaborating partners are Professor Dan Smyer Yu, Kuige Professor of Ethnology, School of Ethnology and Sociology at Yunnan University and Gobal Faculty Member, University of Cologne, the research team lead by Danseng Lawn at the Kachinland Research Centre, Myitkyina, Myanmar, and Research Fellows Dr David Brown and Ronghui (Kevin) Zhou.

    2018 – 2020 ‘Sustainable Lives in Scarred Landscapes: Heritage, Environment, and Violence in the China-Myanmar Jade Trade’. (PI) British Academy GCRF Sustainable Development Grant: Heritage, Dignity & Violence - £299,995.

    My collaborating partners are Professor Dan Smyer Yu, Kuige Professor of Ethnology, School of Ethnology and Sociology, and the National Centre for Borderlands Ethnic Studies in Southwest China at Yunnan University and the research team lead by Danseng Lawn and Naw Tun Lamai at the Kachinland Research Centre, Myitkyina, Myanmar.

    2017 – 2021 ‘Drugs and (Dis)order: Building Sustainable Peacetime Economies in the Aftermath of War’. ESRC GCRF Research Capacity Growth Call Major Grant - £7,231,221.

    This large collaborative project is lead by Professor Jonathan Goodhand, Professor in Conflict and Development Studies at SOAS, with multiple partners including the Kachinland Research Center and Shan Herald Agency for News in Myanmar, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and the Research Centre on Drugs and Security, Universidad de los Andes) and Afghanistan (Organization for Sustainable Development and Research and the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit). I am Co-Investigator on the project working alongside Myanmar Country Working Group lead Dr Patrick Meehan and local partners led by Danseng Lawn and Sai All

    Recent publications

    Authored books

    • 2013 Being and Becoming Kachin: Histories Beyond the State in the Borderworlds of Burma, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships Monographs Series, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 526pp. Translated into Burmese. Winner of the 2015 inaugural EuroSEAS Nikkei Asian Review Prize for Best Book in the Humanities
    • 2008 A Guide to Colonial Sources on Burma: Ethnic & Minority Histories of Burma in the India Office Records, British Library, Bangkok: Orchid Press, 580pp

    Edited books

    Co-edited books

    • 2007 Social Dynamics in the Highlands of Southeast Asia: Reconsidering Political Systems of Highland Burma by E. R. Leach, Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 3 Southeast Asia, 18, Leiden: Brill, 323pp.; Co-editor: François Robinne (IRSEA-CNRS)

    Book chapters

    • 2018 ‘New Area Studies in the Borderlands of Asia’ in Necessary Travel: New Area Studies and Canada in Comparative Perspective, Susan Hodgett and Patrick James (eds), Lanham MD: Lexington Books
    • 2018 ‘Contested Meanings of Postcolonialism and Independence in Burma’ in The Postcolonial Moment in South and South East Asia, Gyan Prakash, Michael Laffan, and Nikhil Menon (eds), London, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, pp.49-66
    • 2016 ‘Meeting Educational Needs in Marginal Areas of the State: Reflections on Research in Myanmar’ in Scholarship and Engagement in Mainland Southeast Asia, Oscar Salemink (ed.), Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, pp.221-242
    • 2014 ‘Remembering Fieldwork Histories’ in Memories and Moments of Fieldwork: South Asian Experience, Chaudhuri S. K. & Chaudhuri S. S. (eds.), New Delhi: Sage Publications Pvt Ltd, pp.88-105

    Collaborative/co-authored book chapters

    • 2016 'Borderlands.' In Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Myanmar, Holliday, Ian and Simpson, Adam and Farrelly, Nicholas, (eds.), Routledge. Co-Author: Patrick Meehan
    • 2013 ‘The Urban Dumsa’ in Burma chapter of Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity, Johan Lindquist, Erik Harms & Joshua Barker (eds.) Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013; collaborative chapter edited by Nicholas Farrelly, for which my contribution as sole author was pp.218-220
    • 2007 ‘Reconsidering the dynamics of ethnicity through Foucault’s concept of ‘Spaces of Dispersion’’ in Social Dynamics in the Highlands of Southeast Asia: Reconsidering Political Systems of Highland Burma by E. R. Leach, François Robinne and Mandy Sadan, pp.299-308; Co-Author: François Robinne (IRSEA-CNRS)

    Journal articles

    Web and digital publications

    • War and Peace in the Borderlands of Myanmar: The Kachin Ceasefire 1994-2011.
    • Being & Becoming Kachin: Fieldwork Notes, Photographs and Translations – an extension of my monograph, which makes available many of the research resources used in writing the text, many of which are very rare and otherwise difficult to access (
    • The Tibet Album – British Photography in Central Tibet 1920-50 ( Directors: Professor Elizabeth Edwards, Professor Clare Harris, T. Richard Blurton; Contribution: helped to develop project research methodology and web output