Geopolitics and human rights

unpacking Australia's Burma

Andrew McGregor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper adopts ideas from critical geopolitics to explore how Western human rights discourses have been enabled and used to construct Myanmar by Australian governments and non-governmental aid organisations. Three distinct human rights scripts are observed that position donors as either punishers, saviours or partners. It is argued that the scripts are enabled by factors external to the actual abuses themselves, including the traditional scripting of Burma within Australian geopolitical memories; the feminine Burmese identity and the networks embodied by the opposition leader, Daw Suu Kyi; and Australia's shifting geopolitical interests in the Southeast Asia region. The case study is used to argue for a broader geography of human rights that recognises their spatiality. Such geographies can improve and broaden human rights politics and debates beyond state-based campaigning, ensuring that campaigns are in the interests of the most marginalised, rather than the most vocal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-211
Number of pages21
JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Critical geopolitics
  • Foreign aid
  • Foreign policy
  • Human rights
  • Myanmar/Burma

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