Personal profile


Stefan Bächtold is a lecturer at the School of Arts and Social Sciences. His background blends critical academic research with substantial experience as an evaluator, practitioner, and trainer in international development and peacebuilding in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Stefan currently researches the interactions of digital technologies with the state in Myanmar and Malaysia against the backdrop of the global pandemic; combining approaches from the fields of international political sociology and science and technology studies. This builds on his PhD that critically analysed discourses, practices, and power structures in international development and peacebuilding interventions in Myanmar; but shifts the focus on digital technologies, and how they co-constitute societies and the political in Southeast Asia.

He has been a visiting research fellow at the Technical University of Munich (Germany), and an associate researcher at the swisspeace institute (University of Basel, Switzerland). For swisspeace, Stefan served as an in-country representative in Myanmar while working as an advisor embedded in a local civil society organisation; and as a program officer for the Peacebuilding Analysis & Impact program. In these functions, he advised, evaluated, and trained numerous institutions like the United Nations, the European Union, governments, (international and local) NGOs and civil society organisations. As an evaluator, Stefan specialises in evaluation methodologies, impact assessments, and collaborative learning processes for complex interventions and armed conflicts.

Research interests

Stefan Bächtold’s research is mainly concerned with the technologies, discourses, practices, and interventions associated with social transformations and armed conflicts. This comprises professional practices and power structures in international development and peacebuilding; processes of state formation in the context of armed conflict; but also the political dimensions of digital technologies and their role in producing authority. His research is rooted in international political sociology, critical/post-structural and de/postcolonial approaches, but more recently also integrates elements of science and technology studies (STS).

Research projects

Digital Technologies and the State in Pandemic Times. Authority, Intervention, and Tech in Malaysia and Myanmar (2021-2024): Stefan’s current research project examines how digital technologies are challenging, but also performing and stabilising state authority in Malaysia and Myanmar against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic. He uses ethnographic methods to observe the complex assemblages of actors, technology, and discourses that stabilise and destabilise state authority in pandemic times; and contributes to a more nuanced understanding of how digital technologies are interacting with politics and power in Southeast Asia.

The role of new technologies in violent/peaceful societal transformations. Comparing digital interventions in Myanmar and Malaysia from a peacebuilding perspective (2019-2021): In this project, Stefan analysed how actors use new media and technologies to intervene in societal transformation processes in Myanmar and Malaysia, and how these technologies as actants shape these interventions in return. Adopting a critical approach combining discourse analysis, ethnographic methods, and elements of STS, this research project empirically ‘followed’ the practices and policies of intervention related to new technologies and media.

Managed pacification. Aid, peacebuilding, and the focus on results in Myanmar’s transition (2011-2016): For his Ph.D., Stefan analysed the discourses, practices, and power relations that are structuring peacebuilding and aid interventions in Myanmar and globally. He used extensive ethnographic field research in Myanmar and a Foucauldian understanding of discourse analysis to show how actors like bi-lateral donors, local civil society organisations, the Myanmar government, or international NGOs, constituted Myanmar as ‘in transition, and how this made the country amenable to the machinery of (best) practices, policies, and ‘solutions’ of aid and peacebuilding interventions. The result, he argued, was that this machinery technicised, de-politicised, and pacified political conflicts in Myanmar, rather than addressing them.

Supervision interests

Stefan Bächtold is interested in supervising projects in the fields of peace and armed conflict, international development, social/political transformations, area-specific research on Myanmar, and the political dimensions of digital technologies.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Education/Academic qualification

Political Science, PhD, Managed pacification. Aid, peacebuilding, and the focus on results in Myanmar’s transition, Universität Basel (University of Basel)

Award Date: 14 Dec 2016

Sociology and Political Science, MA, Universite de Fribourg (University of Fribourg)

Award Date: 27 Aug 2011

External positions

Associated Researcher, Swisspeace

Research area keywords

  • Peace and Conflict
  • International Political Sociology
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Digital Technologies
  • Peacebuilding
  • International Development
  • Myanmar
  • Critical Theory
  • Discourse Analysis

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or