‘Hunger has brought us into this jungle’: understanding mobility and immobility of Bengali immigrants in the Chittagong Hills of Bangladesh

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Abstract

The recent history of the Chittagong Hills in Bangladesh is marked by ongoing conflicts between minority (non-Muslim and nonBengali) locals and state-sponsored (Bengali Muslim) immigrants. In general, these immigrants are framed as land grabbers who have been receiving protection from a pro-Bengali military force. We propose instead, that the understanding of these Bengalis as a homogenous category of mobile perpetrators fails to take into account their complex histories as mobile landless peasants. Our ethnographic research reveals that the framing of the local minorities and the mobile Bengalis as two antagonistic categories with opposing interests obscures the fact that both categories have fallen victim to very similar regimes of mobilities and immobilities of the state and national and local (political, economic and military) elites. Here, we reject binary thinking that counterpoises mobility and immobility as two antagonistic concepts and argue that mobility and immobility are intrinsically related and their relationship is asymmetrical.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPatterns of Im/mobility, Conflict and Identity
EditorsBirgit Bräuchler
PublisherRoutledge
ISBN (Electronic)9781032014814
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Patterns of im/mobility, collective identity and conflict are highly entangled. The im/mobility of a social or cultural group has major impact on how identity narratives, a sense of belonging and relationships to ‘others’ are shaped, and vice versa. These dynamics are closely interlinked with mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion between groups and power structures that involve a broad variety of actors from local populations, to migrants, government institutions and other intermediaries.

Mainly looking at patterns of internal mobility such as ‘traditional’ or strategic mobilities and mobilities enforced by crisis, conflict or governmental programmes and regimes, this book aims to go beyond currently predominant issues of transnational migration. Dynamics of non/integration and belonging, caused by im/mobility, are analysed on a cultural and political level, which involves questions of representation, indigeneity/autochthony, political rights and access to land and other resources. With ethnographic case studies from Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Bangladesh, East Timor and Indonesia, this volume provides a comparative perspective on the multifold dimensions of im/mobility in contexts where changing mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion trigger or settle conflicts and social identities are constantly re/negotiated.

The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of Social Identities.

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