After I had written several articles about Myanmar for Steve Daniels, the editor of Makeshift Magazine, he asked me to consider writing a longer format piece about the informal economy in Myanmar. I worked on Yangonomics since my departure from living full-time in Yangon in June of 2012, and completed publication of the book in the summer of 2015. It combines entries from my blog (Square Inch Anthropology) concerning Myanmar’s colorful array of street vendors with deeper analysis of the challenges that street vendors face and how they attempt to solve them. The book is aimed primarily at those who are looking to better understand Myanmar’s recent history from a seldom-considered perspective of street vendors and those who work in the country’s informal economy, as viewed through the lenses of design, policy, and economics. The analysis within is meant to prove useful to anyone looking to better understand life on the ground in this fast-changing country as it emerges from nearly five decades of isolation at the hands of a military junta and severe economic sanctions.
I took all of the photographs and all of the written analysis of the observations within those images included in the book. I also worked alongside my publisher’s graphic designer in discussing layout options and developing the design we eventually settled on. As this was done sans budget, I ended up teaching myself InDesign and laying out the book myself.
This project illustrates my photographic abilities, my abilities to observe and analyze my surroundings for cultural insights, and my ability to design and implement layouts with digital publishing software.
I conducted the research for this book both while carrying out my other work responsibilities around various cities across Myanmar (leading a team of design researchers) and also in my spare time on weekends, which I spent largely wandering around downtown Yangon speaking with vendors and going on day-trips outside of the urban center to visit further-flung communities and satellite towns to better understand what life there was like.