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Research

Title of the project:

The meaning of migration of the ethnic majority in borderland: Super diversity, cultural encounters and conviviality in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.

Summary:

This project deals particularly with the Chittagong Hill Tracts (hereafter CHT) in South East Bangladesh bordering India and Burma (Myanmar). The CHT is inhabited by twelve indigenous ethnic minority communities beside the (im)migrant “national majority” community of ethnic Bengalis. Here, a low intensity war raged from 1975 to 1997 between the indigenous insurgents and the state as a consequence of the newly emerged Bangladesh’s (in 1971) denial to self-ascribed identity of local ethnic minority communities and their desire to self-determination. As a counterinsurgency strategy, the government also started a huge population relocation scheme in the 1980s via which at least 400,000 Bengalis were settled in the CHT. Although, a Peace Accord was signed in 1997, the conflicts and violence in the CHT has not come to an end. Rather, the CHT frequently grabs the attention of the national and international media and human rights organisations for “communal” attacks on the indigenous peoples by the state sponsored Bengali (im)migrants.

In this project I focus on the CHT with an aim to better understand how the state backed immigration of the national majority influences local power relations among and between minority and majority populations and link to identity politics. I also want to scrutinize the use of labeling (i.e. majority and minority; autochthony and alterity) in these processes, and examine how labels can both empower and undermine the positions of individual actors. The prevalence of ethnic/culturally determined categories seems to play a significant role both in framing the inter-ethnic relational problems and in the formulation of resolutions in the CHT. I, however, would like to propose that many of the general insights into the dynamics of the Asian borderlands help also understanding what is going on in the CHT. I also suggest that it is highly important to contextualize the borderland situation within the context of the nation state, and global dimensions impacting Bangladesh.

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