My current research topic is on marginalised Bengali identities. I am also co-authoring, with Joya Chatterji and Claire Alexander, a book on The Bengal Diaspora: Muslim migrants in Britain, India and Bangladesh under the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council's 'Diaspora, Migration and Identities' research scheme. The project is an inter-disciplinary investigation of the Bengali Muslim diaspora since 1947, with a view to comparing the migration experience of displaced Bengalis who resettled in South Asia, as against those who emigrated to the UK.
Based on fieldwork undertaken between September 2006 and August 2009 along the Bangladesh / West Bengal border, our book challenges a predominant assumption of theories of diaspora, namely that migrants settle in the West whereas in fact most remain in, or very close to, their own countries and regions of origin in the Global South. Dealing with the experience of Bengali Muslims our research fills in the major gaps in historical and contemporary empirical knowledge about these communities, interactions with their 'host communities' and their links to those left behind.
In a way, the new project is both a continuation as well as a break from my book 'Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans' (2010, Routledge) which was based on my PhD research. The book brings both academic and socio-political concerns in a study of the human/non-human interface in the mangrove islands of the Sundarbans, in the southern part of the Bengal delta. It examined how people living in these impoverished islands 'interact' with the man-eating tigers of the region and how their perceptions of nature and wildlife articulate contradictory understandings of sociality. Significantly, in this region of great social disparities, I argue that it is not so much caste and religion that divides, but attitudes to the forest/tigers versus those towards land/agriculture.
Country of origin
Period of stay at IIAS
Religion, Community, and the Working Classes of Bengal