Colonial Yangon/ The Relationship between urban planning and place identity of Burmese

Place identity refers to the meaning entitled by a place. It is often related to the inhabitants’ sense of belonging and attachment to a place. Therefore, this concept is also showing the citizens’ sense of security within the community (Ware 2016).

In Yangon, the colonial urban planning contributed greatly to Burmese’s sense of ownership and inclusion they found in the society.  However, the British government has ignored the needs of local Burmese in the land allocation.

“Land in Rangoon was divided into five different classes with the lots closest to the river commanding the highest prices. In theory, the parcels in the northernmost area near Montgomerie Road were priced for commoners but no Burmese could afford to buy lots within the planned city and squatted in unoccupied land.”

(Pearn 1939, 190-194) 

Figure 1:this map shows the land allocation of the old Rangoon. There was a lot of residential area in the unplanned upper part of the city, showing the marginalized situation of Burmese.

The inconsiderate land planning for local Burmese resulted in their loss in sense of belonging to the city. As place identity would affect the forming of individual and collective self-characteristics (Burchardt and Becci 2013), they would gradually behave more resentfully towards the society. In the case of Rangoon, Burmese were mentally insecure under the governance of the British, resulting in the formation of nationalism in Yangon under the colonial rule (Ware 2016).

Although the colonial period of Rangoon was not that long comparing to the other Asian cities, the impacts it imposed on Burmese’s place identity was significant. After all, the most prominent influence of colonial rule in Yangon was not in institutional aspects, but the strong nationalist formation of Burmese.




Burchardt, Marian, and Irene Becci. 2013. Introduction: Religion Takes Place: Producing Urban Locality. In Topographies of Faith:Religion in Urban Spaces, ed. Irene Becci, Marian Burchardt, and Jose Casanova.Leiden: Brill.

Pearn, Bertie Reginald. 1939. History of Rongoon. Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press.

Ware, Anthony.2 2016. “Religion and Urbanism in Origin ofBuddhist nationalism in Myanmar/Burma: An urban history of religious space, social integration and marginalisation in colonial Rangoon after 1852.” In Religion and Urbanism: Reconceptualising sustainable cities forSouth Asia, edited by Yamini Narayanan, p.27-45.

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