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"Emergence and the Bengali Muslim Subject"

By Naveeda Khan, Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Monday, June 04, 2012
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall


Scholarly writings on Bangladesh suggest a certain settling of the question of the Bengali Muslim in these parts.  The turn to social conservatism is considered secured by the loss of the agrarian frontier to increasing urbanization, the rise of the mofussil based Bengali Muslim and the envelopment of everyday life by economic corruption.  Yet the deltaic region has never entirely settled into a tractable geography, throwing up physical surprises and challenges at every turn, forcing a changeability and adaptability upon the denizens of this patch of land.  Most prominently the river system within the country constantly produces and erodes land as if creating new frontiers within the borders of the country.  This land serves as a palimpsest of propertied relations, revolutionary pasts, and utopian imaginaries as well as the site of experimentation with living in an increasingly uninhabitable world with equal inventiveness of an ethics of co-existence and new vulnerabilities and cruelties. With a focus on this moving land (chars) and those who make their homes upon it (chauras), I put forward the chaura subject, transected by personal and impersonal forces, by multiple lives lived in a probabilistic fashion, and by movements in place, as disturbing the settled quality of the Bengali Muslim.  I take the chaura subject to be the site of generativity of an emergent order that speaks of the mutual absorption of the social and the natural. 


Naveeda Khan is assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University's Department of Anthropology.  She is the editor of Beyond Crisis: Reevaluating Pakistan (2010).  Her book titled Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan is forthcoming from Duke University Press.  Her articles are to be found in Cultural Anthropology, Social Text, Anthropological Theory, Comparative Studies in Society and History among other journals and edited volumes.  In her new research project Naveeda moves from religious institutions in urban Pakistan to village life on silt islands within the river system in Bangladesh.  She has been awarded the Andrew W. Mellon’s New Directions Fellowship to aid her in this study.  


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Cost: Free and open to the public.

Light refreshement will be served.


Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

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