RAI Research in Progress: Camelia Dewan
Embanking the Sundarbans: Political Ecology and Gender in the southwest coastal zone of Bangladesh.
This research seeks to demonstrate how a simplified climate change narrative fails to comprehend the multitude of interlinked processes affecting livelihoods in the coastal zone, many of which are not directly caused by climate change. The proposed research will focus on how livelihoods are affected by such changes, especially in land use practices, in the southwest coastal zone of Bangladesh. It will explore the interactions between changing land use, commercialisation and their environmental impact. By investigating how land use practices have evolved over time (from British Colonial Bengal to today), it will gain an informed understanding of historical disjunctures and continuities that may help contextualise findings from fieldwork. The ethnographic work of the study particularly focuses on understanding how women, particularly landless divorcees/single mothers, engage and interact with these changes in local livelihood opportunities. Female-headed households in Bangladesh often belong to the chronically poor, characterised by food insecurity, low incomes, and social exclusion, while environmental degradation tends to intensify economic and material deprivation of the poorest people (Greenough and Tsing 2003). In a context of dynamic weather patterns with dry seasons and salinity intrusion, seasonal migration is an important livelihood strategy in South Asia that relies on the availability of male labour in the household. Such women often lack such a male member and I therefore wish to understand to what extent these poor women use migration as a livelihood strategy.