Mai Van Tran

Mai Van Tran

Guest Researcher

Van Tran is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. Her research has focused on contentious politics and digital cultures under authoritarianism in the contexts of Myanmar's military dictatorship (1962-2010) and post-coup period (after 2021).

She completed her Ph.D. at the Department of Government, Cornell University with a dissertation examining the resilience of public activism under repression, based on new qualitative evidence from Myanmar’s urban pro-democracy movement during 1988-2010. Using process tracing, her analysis highlights the agency of non-contentious bystanders, whose protection toward protesters ultimately influence movement durability.

Van has also worked with civil society organizations in Myanmar to coordinate mixed-method research projects on local governance, digital literacy, and online disinformation, integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches to analyze both online and offline data. Her policy recommendations have been disseminated to hundreds of development partners at Myanmar Digital Rights Forum, Facebook, the United Nations, European Union, Oxfam, etc.

Van’s academic research is published and forthcoming at the Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, Asian Politics & Policy, Big Data & Society, and Journal of Contemporary Asia. Other public scholarship works on Burmese politics have appeared in an edited book by the Torino World Affairs Institute and more than 100 media outlets and research blogs, including The Washington Post, Brookings Institution, Al Jazeera, AP, New Mandala, etc.


Twitter: @vmtran


Peer-Reviewed Articles 

2022. “Democratic backsliding disrupted: The role of digitalized resistance in Myanmar.” Asian Journal of Comparative Politics. (with Megan Ryan)

2023. “Enabling activist resilience: Bystander protection during protest crackdowns in Myanmar.” Asian Politics & Policy.

2023. “Organic online politics: Farmers, Facebook and Myanmar’s military coup.” Big Data & Society. (with Dr. Hilary Faxon, Kendra Kintzi, Kay Zak Wine, and Swan Ye Htut)

Accepted. “Provoking civilian distrust and disruption against popular protests: The role of counter-mobilisation strategies by the Myanmar military.” Journal of Contemporary Asia.


Invited Presentations

“Resistance and Revolution in Digitalized Myanmar.” EUVIP Young Researchers Workshop. Palacky University Olomouc. March 2023.

Book Launch Panel: One Year After the Coup: Resistance, Resilience, and Re-invention. International Development Research Centre Conference: Exchanging Ideas for a Democratic Myanmar. November 2022.

“Democratic Backsliding Disrupted: The Role of Digitalized Resistance in Myanmar.” Myanmar Research Centre Dialogue Series. Australian National University. November 2022.

“Bystanders, Digital Activism, and Revolution Solidarity in Myanmar’s Democratic Struggles.” Myanmar University of Social Science and Technology. November 2022.

Roundtable Discussion: How to Study Pro-Democracy Movements in Asia. V-Dem East Asia Regional Centre Webminar. January 2022.

“Pro-Democracy Struggle in the Digital Age? Military vs. Dissident Rhetoric in Post-Coup Myanmar.” Burma (Myanmar) Country Seminar. Cornell University. December 2021.

“Myanmar’s Anti-Coup Resistance: Dynamics and Dilemmas in the Digital Age.” Department of Southeast Asian Studies Seminars. National University of Singapore. October 2021.  

“Engineering Public Hostility Against Popular Movements: Tatmadaw’s Suppressive Repertoire in Urban Myanmar.” Center for Southeast Asian Studies Brown Bag Seminar Series. Yale University. September 2021.

“Uncharted Territory: Fieldwork Methods and Ethics in Myanmar.” Institute for International and Area Studies. Tsinghua University. May 2021.

“Reflections on Myanmar’s Pro-Democracy Movement.” Panel Discussion on The Myanmar Coup: Causes, Popular Resistance, and International Intervention. University of Chicago. May 2021.

“Activist Resilience under Repression: The Role of Civilian Protection in the Burmese Pro-Democracy Movement.” Southeast Asia Program Lecture Series. Cornell University. March 2021.

“Update on Myanmar’s Digital Cultures: Myths and Facts.” Myanmar Digital Rights Forum. February 2020.


Awards and Prizes

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Fellow, European Commission, 2022

SEAREG Fellow, Southeast Asia Research Group, 2022

Best Paper Award, Young International Scholars Category, Myanmar-Europe Research Network's International Conference, 2022

Myanmar Fellow, University of British Columbia-IDRC, 2021

Asia Workshop's Fellow, American Political Science Association, 2019

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