Days after Myanmar’s February 2021 coup, young people took to the streets. The protests were tongue-in-cheek at first, but soon gave way to a grave civil war. Understanding this shift from nonviolent protests to armed resistance requires shedding two frames that have been applied to Myanmar in the past: those of liberal democracy and state failure. Doing so brings into focus how, to an extent unprecedented in Myanmar, the anti-coup movement is challenging entrenched divides between “democracy” and “ethnonationalism,” and between “conflict” and “politics.”

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