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Histories of displacement and the creation of political space: "statelessness" and citizenship in Bangladesh

Redclift, Victoria (2011) Histories of displacement and the creation of political space: "statelessness" and citizenship in Bangladesh. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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In May 2008, at the High Court of Bangladesh, a ‘community’ that has been ‘stateless’ for over thirty five years were finally granted citizenship. Empirical research with this ‘community’ as it negotiates the lines drawn between legal status and statelessness captures an important historical moment. It represents a critical evaluation of the way ‘political space’ is contested at the local level and what this reveals about the nature and boundaries of citizenship. The thesis argues that in certain transition states the construction and contestation of citizenship is more complicated than often discussed. The ‘crafting’ of citizenship since the colonial period has left an indelible mark, and in the specificity of Bangladesh’s historical imagination, access to, and understandings of, citizenship are socially and spatially produced. While much has changed since Partition, particular discursive registers have lost little of their value. Today, religious discourses of ‘pollution’ and ‘purity’ fold into colonial and post-colonial narratives of ‘primitivity’ and ‘progress’ and the camp draws a line in contemporary nationalist space. Unpicking Agamben’s (1998; 2005) binary between ‘political beings’ and ‘bare life’, the thesis considers ‘the camp’ as a social form. The camps of Bangladesh do not function as bounded physical or conceptual spaces in which denationalized groups are altogether divorced from ‘the polity’. Instead ‘acts of citizenship’ (Isin and Nielsen, 2008) occur at the level of everyday life, as the moments in which formal status is transgressed. Until now the space of citizenship has failed to recognise the ‘non-citizens’ who can, through complicated accommodations and creative alliances, occupy or negotiate that space. Using these insights, the thesis develops the concept of ‘political space’, an analysis of the way in which history has shaped spatial arrangements and political subjectivity. In doing so, it provides an analytic approach of relevance to wider problems of displacement, citizenship and ethnic relations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Victoria Redclift
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Alexander, Claire

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