A response to “Becoming Bangladesh”

To: Organizers of the “Becoming Bangladesh” panel
LSE South Asia Centre 
February 8, 2021

A response to “Becoming Bangladesh” (138 SIGNATORIES as of February 10th)

It has recently come to our attention that you have organized a panel titled “Becoming Bangladesh” to celebrate 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence. While we appreciate the space for discourse on Bangladesh, we write as a group of Bangladeshi scholars with deep concerns.

It is surprising and disappointing that you would choose a lineup of speakers at the inaugural event that includes only one Bangladeshi scholar. An inaugural event, after all, sets the tone and terms of debate for future events. Glaringly missing from the event are other Bangladeshi scholars who have been working on Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence. This oversight is certainly not new in the field of South Asian Studies, long dominated by Indian scholars and scholarship on India. The oversight is particularly egregious in this instance because the panel is titled “Becoming Bangladesh,” a formulation that appropriates the Bangladeshi voice. The scholars on the panel have produced important work that requires engagement and attention but our concern is the appropriation of a Bangladeshi subjectivity imposed by the organizers. Indeed, the panelists are valued colleagues with whom we have worked and this framing of the panel is in sharp contrast to the nuanced, thoughtful work these very scholars have produced, with empathy, even love—and without appropriation. The title and composition of the panel fall into a long-established pattern of “speaking for and about” contexts relegated to the margins as mere objects to be examined. 

This approach to studying Bangladesh from non-Bangladeshi perspectives speaks to subtle academic gate-keeping that keeps Bangladeshi scholars marginal, even in the areas of their own expertise. Worse, it assumes that Bangladeshi scholars cannot move beyond nationalist views to offer “global multi-perspectives” or critical evaluations of their own history. It also leaves anyone new to the field with the impression that Bangladeshi authors have not written “English-language” books on the subject or that their scholarship is not worthy of consideration. Moreover, that writing in English is a criterion for inclusion is itself a reminder of how only certain types of scholarship are seen, recognized, legitimized, and therefore deemed of any value both inside and outside of academia.

We must point out that such an inaugural event is at variance with global efforts underway in recent decades to “decolonize” academia, including at LSE, which has long been dominated by the perspective from the Global North. In addition, it is also imperative to address concerns of regional hegemony. As a South Asia Research Centre in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, it is important to recognize that scholarship produced by Bangladeshis (as well as by scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Myanmar) faces Indian hegemony over shared South Asian intellectual space. This is not unique to the London School of Economics but across much of academia in spaces meant to be inclusive of all South Asians. At a time, when we are engaging in critical conversations about decolonizing academia, in particular rethinking our privileged access, the message here (even if unintentional) appears to be that Bangladeshi scholars do not produce scholarship that requires engagement and can be dismissed. It categorizes Bangladesh as a place of case study, a place to be theorized about by others, while Bangladeshi scholars are not considered subject matter experts. Indeed, it mimics the colonial practice of using “local/native” scholars for contacts and data. 

We urge you to direct your attention to decolonizing academia and to undoing the harm that Indian and Global North hegemony continues to inflict.

Signed:

(alphabetical order by surname) 

  1. Ahrar Ahmed, Black Hills State University, USA
  2. Hana Shams Ahmed, York University, Canada
  3. Ibtisam Ahmed, University of Nottingham, UK
  4. Rahnuma Ahmed, Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  5. Salauddin Ahmed, Bengal Institute of Architecture, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  6. Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed, University of Toronto, Canada 
  7. Sonia Ahmed, Cornell University, USA
  8. Musharrat Ahmed-Landeryou, London South Bank University, UK
  9. Muhammad Ahmedullah, Brick Lane Circle, UK
  10. Nasreen Akhter, University of Sussex, UK
  11. Ashraful Alam, University of Otago
  12. Ashraful Azad, UNSW Sydney, Australia and University of Chittagong, Bangladesh
  13. Umme Al-Wazedi, Augustana College, USA
  14. Tibra Ali, Brac University, Bangladesh
  15. Arif Anwar, University of Toronto, Canada
  16. Hasan Ashraf, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
  17. Abdul Aziz, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
  18. Ahmed Badruzzaman, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  19. Farzana Bindu, Prairie View A&M University, USA
  20. Gopa Biswas Caesar, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  21. Anurag Chakma, Australian National University, Australia
  22. Kabita Chakma, independent researcher, Australia
  23. Ashim Chakraborty, Anglia Ruskin University, UK
  24. Sudip Chakroborthy, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
  25. Cyra Akila Choudhury, Florida International University College of Law, USA
  26. Elora Halim Chowdhury, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA
  27. Khairul Chowdhury, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
  28. Manosh Chowdhury, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
  29. Zaynab Chowdhury, London School of Economics, UK
  30. Zirwat Chowdhury, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
  31. Bina D’Costa, Australian National University, Australia
  32. Camellia Dewan, University of Oslo, Norway
  33. Binota Moy Dhamai, Australian National University, Australia
  34. Asif Dowla, St Mary’s College, USA
  35. Adnan M.S. Fakir, University of Western Australia, Australia
  36. Naima Farah, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, USA
  37. M. Omar Faruque, Queen’s University, Canada
  38. Rawshan E Fatima, Rutgers University, USA
  39. Raihana Ferdous, University of Glasgow, UK
  40. Kaberi Gayen, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
  41. Saydia Gulrukh, Thotkata.net, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  42. Sadeka Halim, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
  43. Fahmidul Haq, University of Notre Dame, USA
  44. Akhlaque Haque, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
  45. Mohammad Hasan, Carleton University, Canada 
  46. Fayeza Hasanat, University of Central Florida, USA
  47. Mubashar Hasan, Western Sydney University, Australia
  48. Naeemul Hassan, University of Maryland, USA
  49. Nafis Hassan, Tufts University, USA
  50. Ehsan Hoque, University of Rochester, USA
  51. Adnan Hossain, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  52. Delwar Hossain, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
  53. Naomi Hossain, American University, USA, and University of Sussex, UK
  54. Chaumtoli Huq, City University of New York, USA
  55. Azfar Hussain, Grand Valley State University, USA
  56. Tanvir Hussain, University of Nottingham, UK
  57. Nabila Idris, University of Cambridge, UK
  58. Asif Iqbal, Michigan State University, USA
  59. Jhilam Z. Iqbal, Fordham University, USA
  60. Asif Ishtiaque, University of Michigan, USA
  61. Sadaf Noor E Islam, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh
  62. Jessica Islam, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
  63. Kajalie Shehreen Islam, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  64. Khairul Islam, Wayne State University, USA
  65. Maidul Islam, University  of Chittagong, Bangladesh
  66. AKM Mazharul Islam, SUST, Bangladesh
  67. Muhammad Muinul Islam, University of Missouri, Columbia
  68. Nabila Islam, Brown University, USA
  69. Imran Jamal, SOAS, University of London, UK
  70. Humayun Kabir, City University of New York, USA
  71. Humayun Kabir, Humber College, Toronto, Canada
  72. Elma Kaiser, Stockton University, USA
  73. Farhan Karim, University of Kansas, USA.
  74. Lamia Karim, University of Oregon, USA
  75. Shuchi Karim, Carleton University, Canada
  76. Ibrahim Khalad, Australian National University
  77. Farida Khan, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, USA
  78. Hafiza Nilofar Khan, Portland Community College, USA
  79. Saad Adnan Khan, University of Washington, US
  80. Sameer ud Dowla Khan, Reed College, USA
  81. Sonia Z. Khan, Lawyer and Independent Scholar, Bangladesh and UK
  82. Shehreen Ataur Khan, Jagannath University, Bangladesh
  83. Nasrin Khandoker, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
  84. Samia Khatun, SOAS, University of London, UK
  85. Sayema Khatun, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA
  86. Debasish Kundu, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
  87. Lopa Leach, University of Nottingham, UK
  88. Arpita Shams Mizan, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  89. Rezwan Masud, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  90. Shabbir Mian, McDaniel College, USA 
  91. Naeem Mohaiemen, Columbia University, USA
  92. Md Al Ifran Hossain Mollah, Independent University, Bangladesh
  93. Adnan Morshed, Catholic University of America, USA
  94. Tasik Mumin, University of Toronto, Canada
  95. Nadine Shaanta Murshid, University at Buffalo, USA
  96. Navine Murshid, Colgate University, USA
  97. Gitiara Nasreen, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
  98. Sohana Nasrin, University of Maryland at College Park, USA
  99. Qazi Mustabeen Noor, McMaster University, Canada
  100. Maaisha Osman, Northeastern University, USA
  101. Saimum Parvez, University of Sydney
  102. Noor Jahan Punam, University of Lapland, Finland 
  103. Saad Quasem, University of Virginia, USA
  104. Nayma Qayum, Manhattanville College, USA
  105. Rahim Quazi, Prairie View A&M University, USA
  106. Munir Quddus, Prairie View A&M University, USA
  107. Shakil Rabbi, Bowie State University, USA 
  108.  Al Amin Rabby, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Bangladesh
  109.  Fatima Rajina, De Montfort University, UK
  110.  Anis Rahman, University of Washington, Seattle, USA 
  111.  Md. Mizanur Rahman, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
  112. Muhammad Nafisur Rahman, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. 
  113. Md Saidur Rahman, University of Toronto, Canada
  114.  Parboti Roy, University of British Columbia, Canada
  115. Sudipta Roy, Georgetown University, USA
  116.  Farhana Razzaq, York University, Canada
  117.  Seuty Sabur, Brac University, Bangladesh
  118.  Mahfuz Sadique, SOAS University of London, UK
  119.  Mohammad Sajjadur Rahman, Clark University, USA
  120. Tazreena Sajjad, American University, USA
  121.  Abu Elias Sarker, University of Sharjah, UAE
  122.  Swadhin Sen, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
  123.  Ahmed Shamim, University of Texas at Austin, USA
  124.  Elora Shehabuddin, Rice University, USA
  125. Dina M Siddiqi, New York University, USA
  126. Esha Sraboni, Brown University, USA
  127. Farhana Sultana, Syracuse University, USA
  128. Mirza Taslima Sultana, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
  129. Mahmudul H Sumon, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
  130. Nafisa Tanjeem, Lesley University, USA
  131. Munjulika Tarah, Williams College, USA
  132. Syma Tariq, CRiSAP, University of the Arts London, UK
  133. Md. Saimum Reza Talukder, BRAC University, Bangladesh
  134. Layli Uddin, King’s College London, UK
  135. Nafsin Uddin, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
  136. Tanzim Wahab, Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  137. Fatima Zahra, Harvard University, USA
  138. Tabassum Zaman, University of Liberal Arts, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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