Identity, Conflict, and Social Movement Activism in Bangladesh’s Nation-Building Politics
In the last half a century, the search for a Bangladeshi national identity has been driven and contested by different forces and political imageries. This paper looks at the interrelations between nation-building policies and social-movement activism. Since its independence in 1971, the country has been caught up in debates surrounding Bengali, Bangladeshi, and Muslim identities and activism in its nation- building process, leading to multiple exclusions along ethnic, religious, gender, and class lines. Identity formation in postcolonial society has mainly relied on constructing majority populations with shared commonalities, such as religion, language, heritage, or social traditions. We show how state initiatives in crafting a so-called natural identity and homogeneity in the name of nation-building have turned into counterproductive and politically profit-oriented projects, masking inequalities and persecution. We propose that achieving a sophisticated understanding of the nation- building process requires paying attention to the causes, outcomes, and influences of social and political movements. We also posit that nation-building is a protracted process of political integration that often remains unfinished, even decades after a nation has gained its independence.
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