Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Displacing the Past: Climate Change, Social Antagonisms, and Fishery Labor in Chittagong, Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and climate vulnerable countries in the world, and it has always been, long before climate change entered a global consciousness. This research examines how climatic displacements and social antagonisms intersect in the port-city of Chittagong, Bangladesh. The project focuses on fishing communities in the city constituted of lower-caste resident Hindu fishers and climate-dislocated Muslim fishers from the mouth of the Meghna River, part of the largest Delta in the world; a place that is still grappling with legacies of some of the most severe environmental events and anti-Hindu riots in South Asian history. The Muslims of my study presently experience a shift to fishing labor, due to climatic dislocation. I explore how this climate-induced change of occupation and movement to Hindu neighborhoods in the city is experienced by Muslim fishers and what the consequence is for lower-caste Hindu fishers, who claim always to have been fishers, and now see members of the majority religious group claiming their space and occupations. I will conduct an ethnography of the social spaces of the fishing harbor and fisher's neighborhood through participant observation, household surveys, oral histories, and semi-structured interviews. I will complement this with case studies of the conflicts that occur between fishers and archival research in the National Archives of Bangladesh in Dhaka on histories of multiple displacements. I focus on the everyday ethos of inhabiting the category of fishers, coded as lower-caste Hindu, and modes of conflict and cohabitation produced between Hindu and Muslim communities that only recently come to live and work together. Drawing on anthropological and interdisciplinary work on ethics, place-making, and political ecology this project seeks to explore new urban social forms enabled in the aftermath, everyday experience, and anticipation of climate change and social violence.