Faculty Biography

Ken MacLean

Ken MacLean, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change
Department of International Development, Community, and Environment
Clark University
950 Main St
Worcester, MA 01610

Email: kmaclean@clarku.edu



Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (2005)
M.S. School of Natural Resources and Environment, U. Michigan-Ann Arbor (2004)
B.A. Anthropology, Princeton University (1990)

Research Interests

Topics: States and State-effects, Political Violence, Extractive Industries, Displacement and Irregular Migration, Critical Humanitarianism, (Late and Post-) Socialism, Legal Regimes, Science and Technology Studies, and Comparative Cartographies
Region: Mainland Southeast Asia and the Greater South China Sea


Ken MacLean is an Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change, and a faculty member at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology (University of Michigan 2005), a M.S. in Environment Justice (School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Michigan 2004), and a B.A. in Anthropology (Princeton University, 1990). Before coming to Clark University, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Comparative and International Studies (Emory University, 2005-2007). He has more than two decades of experience working with NGOs on issues related to human rights violations, conflict-induced displacement, state-sponsored violence, extractive industries, and territorial disputes across South East Asia.

MacLean is currently developing two new book-length projects. The first is an ethnographic study of human rights archives regarding large-scale violations (including alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity) in Burma/Myanmar. The second concerns the role Vietnamese amateur experts (pundits) play in shaping the territorial disputes regarding the greater South China Sea and its natural resources. Funding for his research has come from the Fulbright-Hays Program, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, among other sources.

Selected Publications


2013 The Government of Mistrust: Illegibility and Bureaucratic Power in Socialist Vietna (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press).

Articles and Book Chapters

2014 Forging the Fiery Frontier: Two Millennia of China's Encounters on the South and the Southwest, eds. John Whitmore and James Anderson (Leiden: Brill), 370-394.

2014 "Risk Management and the Business of Financial (Non-) Disclosure in Myanmar." Spillover Edition Political and Legal Anthropology.

2014 "Counter-Accounting with Invisible Data: The Struggle for Transparency in Myanmar's Energy Sector,Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR) 37(1): 10-28.

2013 "A 'Biography-Not' General Tran Do: His Dissident Writings, Elite Politics, and Death in Retrospect," The Journal of Vietnamese Studies 8(1): 34-79.

2013 "The Enterprising Cadre," in Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity: Vietnam, ed. Erik Harms, Joshua Barker, and Johan Lindquist (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press).

2012 "Bodies in Perpetual Motion: Struggles over the Meaning, Value, and Purpose of Fuzzy Labor on the Eve of Collectivization," in State, Society, and Market in Contemporary Vietnam: Property, Power, and Values, ed. Hue-Tam Ho Tai and Mark Selden (London: Routledge), 33-54.

2012 "Enacting Anti-Corruption: The Reconfiguration of Audit Regimes in Contemporary Vietnam," positions: asia critique 20(2): 595-625.

2012 "Lawfare and Impunity in Burma since the 2000 Ban on Forced Labor," Asian Studies ReviewJune (36): 189-206.

2010 "The Collected Works of the Communist Party: The Possibilities and Limits of Official Representations of Actually Existing Government," Journal of Vietnamese Studies 5(2): 195-207 [Invited Contribution for a Special Forum edited by Tuong Vu].

2010 "The Emergence of Private Indirect Government in Burma." In Finding Dollars, Sense, and Legitimacy in Burma, ed. Susan Levenstein, pp. 40-53 (Washington D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars).

2008 "In Search of Kilometer Zero: Digital Archives, Technological Revisionism, and the Sino-Vietnamese Border," Comparative Studies in Society and History50(4): 862-894.

2008 "The Rehabilitation of an Uncomfortable Past: Remembering the Everyday in Vietnam during the Subsidy Period (1975-1986)," History and Anthropology19(3): 281-303.

2008 "Sovereignty after the Entrepreneurial Turn: Mosaics of Control, Commodified Spaces, and Regulated Violence in Contemporary Burma," in Taking Southeast Asia to Market: Commodities, Nature, and People in a Neoliberal Age, ed., Nancy Peluso and Joe Nevins (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), 140-157.p>

2007 "Manifest Socialism: The Labor of Representation in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (1956-1959)," Journal of Vietnamese Studies 2(1): 27-79.

2007 "Spaces of Extraction: Actually Existing Governance along the Riverine Networks of Nyaunglebin District," in Myanmar: the State, Community and the Environment, ed. Monique Skidmore and Trevor Wilson (Canberra: Asia-Pacific Press, Australian National University), 246-267

2004 "Reconfiguring the Debate on Engagement: Burma and the Changing Politics of Aid," 36(3): 323-54.

2000 "Constructing Civil Society: Assessing Participatory Development in Contemporary Vietnam." In Globalization and the Asian Economic Crisis: Indigenous Responses, Coping Strategies and Governance Reform in Southeast Asia), ed. Geoffrey Hainsworth (Vancouver: University of British Columbia), 473-483.

In Press

"Humanitarian Mine Action in Myanmar and the Mismanagement of Risk," Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology.

"History Reformatted: Vietnam's Great Famine (1944-1945) in Archival Form," Southeast Asian Studies.

Selected Conference and Workshop Presentations

2015 "New Visibilities: Challenging Torture and Impunity in Vietnam," Localizing Human Rights,” Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University.

2015 "Constructing Vietnamese Statehood with Not Yet Built Infrastructure in the South China Sea," Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.

2015 "Myanmar Accountability Planning Workshop," International Human Rights Law Clinic, Harvard University.

2015 "The Techno-politics of Anticipation: Constructing Vietnamese Statehood in the East / South China Sea with Yet to Be Built Infrastructure," The State in Vietnam and the State of Vietnamese Studies, Harvard University.