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Paradoxes of the Popular: Despair and Democracy in Bangladesh

Title
Paradoxes of the Popular: Despair and Democracy in Bangladesh
Speaker(s)
Speaker: Nusrat Chowdhury # Amherst College, Massachusetts
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
9th Mar 2017 16:00 - 9th Mar 2017 17:30
Location
6th Floor staff room, Chrystal Macmillan Building
URL
http://www.csas.ed.ac.uk/events/seminar_series/2016_2017/paradoxes_of_the_popular_despair_and_democracy_in_bangladesh

 Abstract:

This essay is located in the aftermath of protests against the War Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh in 2013. Armed with the seemingly unstoppable energy of youth, the Shahbag Movement inaugurated a new culture of protest that eschewed violence, an otherwise regular feature of political performances in South Asia. Although its affective landscape has been commonly understood in terms of nationalist passion, I focus instead on what I call political despair. One major source of this despair has been the opposition between the atheist-blogger on the one side and the Islamist/extremist on the other. The apprehension around the possible effects of this cleavage rested on the body, the first provocation of which comes from the death of a blogger. The dead-body politics that followed assumed and occasioned the atheist/religious divide and made way for more violence, including the murders of a number of religious activists and secular bloggers in the months and years to come. The other area where the body was a privileged site of politics was the presumed corporeal nature of non-secular politics. The physicality and irrationality of so-called religious affect became a marker of distinction between the protesters and their ideological opponents.  The particularities of this context allows me to argue that a sense of despair is not an anomalous but a constitutive element of modern mass democracies. 

Damaged fishing boat, Telwatte, July 2005