Risk, Mobility, and Masculinity: Coming of Age in the Agrarian Borderlands of India and Bangladesh

Talk by Sahana Ghosh (Anthropology, National University of Singapore)

This talk draws on my book, A Thousand Tiny Cuts: Mobility and Security Across the Bangladesh-India Borderlands (2023). It explores how national security practices produce differentiated risks, fundamentally gendered, across a transnational and highly unequal terrain of mobilities across the India-Bangladesh borderlands. Bordering unfolds with a thousand tiny cuts: here the (re)production of masculinity, risk, and national value in agrarian economies occurs with the criminalization of the borderlands and its residents as deserving of violent policing and social reprobation. The talk centers the reflections, decisions, jokes, and critiques of young Bengali men as they come of age and contemplate such a horizon of gendered risks and inequalities.

Sahana Ghosh is a social anthropologist broadly interested in forms and experiences of inequality produced through the intersection of mobility, policing, and gender in our contemporary world. She uses ethnography and feminist approaches to study a range of concerns, such as borders and borderlands, the mobility of people and goods, citizenship, refuge, and neighborliness, the national security state, agrarian change, spatial history, transnational kinship, and the political economy of gendered labor. Ghosh conducts research in India and Bangladesh. Her first book, A Thousand Tiny Cuts: Mobility and Security Across the India-Bangladesh Borderlands, chronicles the slow transformation of a connected region into national borderlands and shows the foundational place of gender and sexuality in the meaning and management of threat and security in relation to mobility. This book recasts a singular focus on border fences and migrants as border-crossers and shows, instead, that postcolonial bordering materializes through multiple forms of violence and devaluation in agrarian, borderland lives. It is under contract with Atelier: Ethnography in the 21st Century, a book series at the University of California Press. Ghosh’s academic writing and photo essays have been published in the American Anthropologist, Current Anthropology, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the Economic and Political Weekly, Gender, Place, and Culture, among others. She also contributes to podcasts, op-eds, and photo essays to engage in broader public debates on these topics. She received her Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. Before joining NUS, Ghosh was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University, and the Watson Institute at Brown University. She also holds an MPhil in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford and a BA and MA in English Literature from Delhi University and Jadavpur University, respectively.

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