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    Between Uncertainty and Hope: Disaster, Displacement, and Livelihoods on Onishchit Char in Bangladesh

    Hossain, Mohammad Altaf (2018) Between Uncertainty and Hope: Disaster, Displacement, and Livelihoods on Onishchit Char in Bangladesh. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    There has been growing literature in disaster studies, which has argued that natural disasters exacerbate people’s current socio-economic vulnerabilities. However, a question remains: what are the specific stories that can be told about people’s different perceptions of disasters and the dynamics of their creative actions to face the uncertain consequences of the disasters? This study applied the multi-sited ethnographic method to understand people’s perceptions and everyday experiences regarding disaster-induced displacement and livelihood strategies. For this study, the sites include a temporary river island (char), an embankment populated with islanders in Gaibandha district, and a shantytown and two rickshaw garages in Dhaka. An important aspect of this study has been to examine how disaster-induced vulnerabilities are linked with social structures. For example, land disputes, land grabbing, and corruption in regard to these issues are lived through the practices of multiple actors, such as peasants, landlords, and functionaries in the land administration. People exercise their agency in making their living in multiple ways including growing crops, raising cattle, participating in development projects, and moving to different places in search of a “better” life. They practise their agency without losing sight of the consequences of the extreme events and the social constraints in which they have been living over the generations. They make some practical choices in order to survive. For the poorer households, the choices they make are narrow, and to a certain extent the choices are humiliating, whereas the richer households calculate the hazard risks and stay on the islands in order to raise cattle and cultivate corn. Living with precariousness, both poor and rich still hope to see new land. This study argues that portraying the islanders simply as “vulnerable” disregards the differences among them and disregards their everyday adaptive capacities in the context of the hazards they face. Although this study shows that disasters create precarious livelihoods and habitation for the islanders, it does not mean that the catastrophes are solely responsible for their vulnerability, which was already created by the socio-economic structure. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of the island villages are not just suffering subjects, vulnerable victims and passive aid receivers. They practise their agency, albeit limited, to utilise their limited resources (land, livestock, and social capital) in order to survive in such a fragile but fertile environment.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Disaster; Displacement; Livelihoods; Onishchit Char; Bangladesh;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Anthropology
    Item ID: 10508
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2019 15:27
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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