Eroded riverbank, Bangladesh


We have two main goals in developing this site:

To develop a detailed ethnographic description of key aspects of life in Kazipur District, Kazipur Upazila, Sirajganj, Bangladesh as things were around 1990.

To provide others with some access to our archive of more than 2,400 retained photographic images of this region of Bangladesh, and to use these images as a central element in our ethnographic account of this place and time.

On the face of things, these objectives may seem obscure. We believe otherwise. Life in and around Kazipur illustrates in microcosm how a great many Bangladesh people deal with two fundamental challenges. One of these is flood—a phenomenon endemic to much of Bangladesh which has been much discussed.

However, people in Kazipur sometimes face another ecological and climatic threat which, though also quite general, is not so widely addressed: the loss of land, homes, villages and livelihood through riverbank (river bank) erosion, and flood.

In Kazipur the local channels of the mighty Jamuna River have episodically and capriciously wandered across the landscape, eroding their banks, destroying everything in their paths and accreting land elsewhere. The two of us, Doreen Indra and Norman Buchignani, are social anthropologists who have done fieldwork in Kazipur specifically to try to understand how riverbank erosion affects the lives of local people, particularly those who have few material resources to contend with it. We would like to use this site to show some of these things.

Our objectives here and a discussion of the impact of riverbank erosion in Bangladesh more generally can be found in our first analytical essay. A discussion of our photographic archive and how its images were processed can be found in the second essay. Our third essay illustrates the remarkable resourcefulness of refugees from river erosion. A fourth essay addresses in detail how very poor climatically displaced people find a place to live by using and modifying a customary residence relationship called uthuli.

This site is a work in progress. As such, our strategy for presenting photographic images is to first provide a set of thematic photo essays (seven at present) where we hope that storyline captions provide some insight into the themes in question. We hope to flesh these out with more topical analytical essays and additional references to our comprehensive bibliography of riverbank erosion, flood and displacement in Bangladesh.