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Professor Syed Jamil Ahmed, Dhaka University

Through ethnographic research at the old sites of Nilkuthis (historic sites of indigo cultivation), Professor Syed Jamil Ahmed will investigate ‘The Politics of Collective memory: Remembering Indigo Rebellion in Bangladesh today’. His key research questions are:

  1. How do contemporary peasants construct their identity by their regulation of the relationship between ‘remembering and forgetting’ the Nilchash/Nilbidroha? He is interested in three particular ideological strands embedded in recounting the narrative of the Nilbidroha: i) as people’s uprising / class struggle; ii) an uprising of people led by local zaminders; ii) an uprising led by Dudu Miyan, a militant leader of the Faraizi Movement, which had called on Muslims to return to ‘the true path of Islam’.

  2. As Bangladesh changes at breakneck pace, how are the memories of Nilchash / Nilbidroha contributing to destabilising history and power?

Professor Ahmed notes that ‘these questions are extremely relevant both in global and local context, given that: i) Indigo is being revived in Bangladesh today, that ii) signs of discontent, even violence amongst farmers can easily be discerned from recent news that some of them have even set fire to their own crop to protest against falling price of coarse paddy, and also that iii) encounters with IS militants operating in Bangladesh have been reported.

With the objective of comprehending what people remember, ethnographic data will be collected by: participant observation (where possible), conversation, semi-structured interview, genealogical investigation and detailed work with key cultural consultants. Archival research will also be employed. The results will be explored in a research paper.

Ethnography: What We Do
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