Futures Built on Sand: Relocating Rohingya Refugees to Bhashan Char Island, Bangladesh

My PhD project aims at describing and understanding Rohingya practices of environmental endurance and land governance. It focuses on Rohingya refugees living on Bhasan Char, a nearshore silt island in the Bengal Delta. Broadly speaking, my project examines how sand, island infrastructure, and the ocean shape the everyday life of refugees.
Sand is a fascinating object of study that helps reveal untold stories of human life in different parts of the world. Sand constantly shapes both physical and social worlds, setting the stage for encounters between human and non-human actors. Having grown up in Bangladesh, one of the largest deltas in the world formed by silt from the Himalayan Mountains, I’m quite familiar with the ways in which sand influences the trajectories of people in this area. Bangladesh is further host to a large number of Rohingya refugees displaced from Myanmar. Recently, the government built one of the world’s largest refugee camps on an island that emerged in the Bay of Bengal about 20 years ago and is composed of fine sand, silt, and clay. The camp features various urban and coastal facilities, such as roads, cyclone shelters, administrative offices, embankments, and a lighthouse.
In my research project, I consider sand both as an object and as a process. By studying practices of caring for coastal infrastructure among international humanitarian agencies, Bangladeshi authorities, and Rohingya communities, I hope to shed light on the materiality of sand, paying special attention to its constitutive role in shaping infrastructure and the human experiences. My PhD project wants to contribute important insights to anthropologies of the state, infrastructure, and materiality.

Go to Editor View