Not available in 2021/22
AN482      Half Unit
Bangladesh and Beyond: Anthropological Perspectives

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Katy Gardner


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course takes Bangladesh and its diaspora as a starting point for a range of anthropological debates, situating ethnographic material in comparative perspective and thus moving beyond a narrow regionalist approach. Whilst routinely overlooked in India centric South Asian studies, Bangladesh has much to teach us. Since its independence in 1971 it has moved from being an international ‘basket case’ to being a ‘middle income country’; it is the birth place of micro credit, lauded for programmes of ‘female empowerment’ a ‘hybrid regime’ in which secular nationalism and Islam uneasily co-exist, and a new frontier of corporate capitalism and speculation. Questions of mobility are central. As we shall see, from its colonial heritage to the present day Bangladesh and its people have always been on the move; as an ethnographic or cultural region what we might describe as ‘Bangladeshi’ therefore cannot be spatially bounded, confined within national or regional borders or understood in narrow regionalist terms. Moreover, as we progress through the course we will be intellectually mobile, studying comparative ethnographies from South Asia and far beyond and seeking intellectual, geopolitical and cultural connections as well as context specific particularities. Topics covered include:  the legacies of colonialism, partition and war; political protest and mobilisation; speculation and extraction; climate change and the environment; micro finance; piety and freedom; marriage, divorce and dowry; transnational communities and diaspora.

The course explicitly covers a range of perspectives and case studies, drawn not only from Bangladesh but also comparative sites across the world.  A range of voices are represented, including though not limited to many Bangladeshi and South Asian scholars. Overall the course avoids a narrow regionalist focus by widening the lens to the Bengali diaspora and beyond. Questions of gender, race and colonialism, class and ethnicity are core.


4 hours of lectures, 15 hours of seminars, 4 hours of workshops and 2 hours of workshops in the MT.

The course will be taught via a mixture of lectures, seminars, films / off campus visits / online content and a workshop. These activities will be arranged in three weekly cycles, which follow the four organising themes of the course: Weeks 1-3: Desh; Weeks 4-6: Stories of Development; Weeks 7-8: Intimate Lives; Weeks 9-10: Bidesh

Each theme / cycle (4 in total) will involve the following, on sequential weeks

1 x 1 hour lecture: This will provide contextual knowledge and perspectives for the theme.

1 x Off Campus Visit / online activity (listed above as 'workshop' x 4) These activities will be designed to fit with each theme and will involve (for example) a visit to Brick Lane, in which students are tasked with answering questions about the history of the area; a visit to a London museum to research the colonial history of Bengal; (if lockdown restrictions continue to be in place in 22/23, these activities will be replaced by online activities.) online activities might include a zoom Q and A with leading Bangladeshi feminist activists, or a quiz which involves online research. All these activities will stretch the students' ability to work independently, to broaden their knowledge of Bangladesh and its diaspora and to make connections between academic debates and 'real life' issues.

Every week there will be a 90 minute seminar in which students will discuss and analyse the comparative ethnographies and make links with the broader themes outlined in the lecture, films and off campus / online activities.

1 x Workshop:  In order for students to develop their research essays there will  be one 2 hour workshop, held towards the end of the course. In this, students will present their ideas and receive feedback from their peers and the course teacher.

The total hours for the course are therefore 4 x 1 hour lecture; 10 x 90 minute seminars; 1 workshop (2 hours );  4 x 1 hour off campus / online activities (which are asynchronous)

Total hours = 25

Students on this course will have a reading week in week 6 in line with department policy

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the Week 6 and 1 piece of coursework in the Week 9.

The book review (of up to 1000 words) and draft essay outline (up to 1500 words) will help the students develop their 4000 word summative research essay.

The formative assessment feeds into the summative research essay and will involve researching and formulating a research essay question. This will be presented as a draft essay outline, which the course tutor will provide feedback on.

Indicative reading

  • Mookherjee, N., 2015. The spectral wound: Sexual violence, public memories, and the Bangladesh war of 1971. Duke University Press.
  • Kuttig, J. and Schulz, M., 2020. Ethnographic Perspectives on the State in Bangladesh. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 54(2)
  • Dewan, C., 2020. ‘Climate Change as a Spice’: Brokering Environmental Knowledge in Bangladesh’s Development Industry. Ethnos, pp.1-22.
  • Hussain, D., 2013. Boundaries undermined: The ruins of progress on the Bangladesh-India border. Hurst.
  • Gardner, K., 2012. Discordant Development. London: Pluto Press.
  • Kabeer, N., 2002. The power to choose: Bangladeshi women and labour market decisions in London and Dhaka. Verso.
  • Karim, L., 2011. Microfinance and its discontents: Women in debt in Bangladesh. U of Minnesota Press.
  • Huang, J.Q., 2020. To Be an Entrepreneur: Social Enterprise and Disruptive Development in Bangladesh. Cornell University Press.
  • Gardner, K., 2008. Keeping connected: security, place, and social capital in a ‘Londoni’ village in Sylhet. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14(3), pp.477-495
  • Alexander, C., Chatterji, J. and Jalais, A., 2015. The Bengal diaspora: rethinking Muslim migration. Routledge.


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the LT Week 1.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills