privacy policy

Hidden in Plain Sight: In-Situ Displacement in Bangladesh


· Shelley Feldman Max Weber Kolleg (Erfurt, Germany)


07/28 | 15:30-15:50 UTC+2/CEST


Displacement is often narrowly defined as the forced removal of people from one place to another, most often through violent means. It can entail the exercise of eminent domain, constitutionally authorized land grabs, or bureaucratic interventions that legitimate the confiscation of private property by corporate interests. Public-private development initiatives are another compelling example of such displacements, where investment in infrastructure and industry are deemed more worthy than the rights of small-scale private property owners. The displacement outcomes that follow expose how private accumulation and public/private investments are used to showcase the country becoming modern and improving its ranking among the world community of nations, often at the cost of rural residents. Yet, the literature on the mobilities that accompany displacement in response to development initiatives, such as large infrastructure projects, leaves a number of critical issues hidden from view. As the impulse of this panel makes evident, displacement is a dynamically unfolding, contingent social process that invites attention to the following critical questions: can members of a community be displaced without being forced to leave their home, community, or property and livelihood? If so, what conceptual architecture will enable us to make sense of such relations of displacement? In other words, how might we rethink displacement as a concept that need not assume mobility as its central thematic, and what might such a rethinking contribute to understanding postcolonial South Asia today? Examples from Bangladesh provide the empirical context for exploring these possibilities.