Mai Van Tran

Mai Van Tran


Van Tran is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. Her research focuses on contentious politics and digital cultures under authoritarianism in Myanmar and beyond.

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 as well as disruption 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 recent analysis and commentaries on Burmese politics appeared in more than 100 media outlets, including The Washington Post, Brookings Institution, Al Jazeera, AP, etc.


Twitter: @vmtran


Awards and Prizes

Myanmar Fellow, University of British Columbia-IDRC, 2021

Asia Fellow, American Political Science Association, 2019


Ongoing Research

“Social Media as Double-Edged Sword: The Evolution of Regime-Dissident Tactics in Post-Coup Myanmar” (with Megan Ryan)

“Changes in Digital Spaces in Response to Political Crises” (with Dr. Hilary Faxon)

“Activist Resilience against Violent Repression: The Role of Bystander Protection in the Burmese Pro-Democracy Movement”

“Engineering Public Hostility Against Popular Protests: Evidence from Myanmar’s Military Rule”


Invited Presentations

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.

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