Debojyoti Das

Postdoctoral Fellow in Council on South Asian Studies, MacMillan CenterYale University

Award Information

Transregional Research Junior Scholar Fellowship: InterAsian Contexts and Connections (2015-2016)

Visiting Fellow, Contemporary South Asian Studies ProgrammeOxford University

Memory, Resilience and Climate Change: An Ethnographic Account of Flood and Cyclone in South and South East Asia

My project aims to study cyclone and flood in the Bay of Bengal - Indian Ocean littoral region through investigation of community memory, oral history and literature produced by communities of Dalit East Bengal partition refugee (Bengali fisherman and seafarers settled in the Sundarban delta of South 24 Parganas, India) (Bandopadhyay 1997), the Rakhaing community of Burmese dissent living in Chittagong, Bangladesh (Tun 2015), and the Rohingyas, - Bengali Muslims settled in Myanmar’s Arakan region (Moshe 2002). At a time when the global scientific community is debating the impact of climate change and global warming, this project is of pressing concern in its exploration of how local communities build resilience through tacit knowledge of their environment. The research will produce an innovative re-conceptualization of cyclones and floods by focusing on peoples lived memory, creative arts, paintings, community museums and vernacular literature in South and South East Asia. It will provide an evidence-base for the culturally specific dimensions of disaster preparedness and community resilience (Adger et. al, 2005). The research builds on my recent participation in the ‘Coastal Frontiers’ project (2012-15) where I looked at the lives of seafarers and fisherman in the Bay of Bengal and the community managed archives. The project will combine environmental anthropology with the memory study and history of transnational flows, bridging insights from the humanities, community museums, oral history and subaltern artwork of marginal communities occupying the coastal and regional frontier in the northern Bay of Bengal littoral region which includes the territories of - (Eastern India, Bangladesh and Myanmar). This research can be of significant value to policy-makers and experts who currently overly rely on scientific knowledge and data-gathering practice based on meteorological forecasting to understand changing climate which as Mike Hulme (2009, 2011) has argued compellingly has had little effect on people’s behaviour. It will simultaneously contribute to the emergent scholarship on climate change and natural disaster mitigation aligns with the ‘grand challenges’ that Asia face with global climate change.