Transnationalism Reversed
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Winner of the 2012 Gloria E. Anzaldua Book Prize presented by the National Women's Studies Association

Acid attacks against women and girls have captured the attention of the global media, with several high-profile reports ranging from the BBC to The Oprah Winfrey Show. In Bangladesh, reasons for the attacks include women's rejection of sexual advances from men, refusal of marriage proposals, family or land disputes, and unmet dowry demands. The consequences are multiple: permanent marks on the body, disfiguration, and potential blindness. In Transnationalism Reversed, Elora Halim Chowdhury explores the complicated terrain of women's transnational antiviolence organizing by focusing on the work done in Bangladesh around acid attacks—and the ways in which the state, international agencies, local expatriates, US media, Bangladeshi immigrants in the United States, survivor-activists, and local women's organizations engage the pragmatics and the transnational rhetoric of empowerment, rescue, and rehabilitation. Grounded in careful ethnographic work, oral history, and theoretical and filmic analysis, Transnationalism Reversed makes a significant contribution to conversations around gendered violence, transnational feminist praxis, and the politics of organizing—particularly around NGOs—in the global South.


1. Feminist Negotiations: Contesting Narratives of the Campaign Against Acid Violence in Bangladesh

2. Local Realities of Acid Violence in Bangladesh

3. From Dhaka to Cincinnati: Charting Transnational Narratives of Trauma, Victimization, and Survival

4. Feminism and Its Other: Representing the “New Woman” of Bangladesh

5. Transnational Challenges: Engaging Religion, Development, and Women’s Organizing in Bangladesh


Works Cited



Publié par
Date de parution 01 octobre 2011
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781438437538
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1648€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


SUNY series, Praxis: Theory in Action

Nancy A. Naples, editor

Transnationalism Reversed
Women Organizing against Gendered Violence in Bangladesh
Elora Halim Chowdhury

Published by State University of New York Press, Albany
© 2011 State University of New York
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
For information, contact State University of New York Press, Albany, NY
Production by Kelli W. LeRoux Marketing by Michael Campochiaro
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Chowdhury, Elora Halim.
Transnationalism reversed : women organizing against gendered violence in Bangladesh / Elora Halim Chowdhury.
p. cm. — (SUNY series, praxis)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4384-3752-1 (pbk. : alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-4384-3751-4 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. Women—Violence against—Bangladesh. 2. Feminism—Bangladesh. 3. Women—Bangladesh—Social conditions. I. Title.
HV6250.4.W65C574 2011
362.88082'095492—dc22                                                     2011004374
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To Nasreen Apa, for inspiration and imagination ,
To my parents, for love and encouragement

This book, like any other, is a product of years of collaboration. The writing of it has been a journey through many phases and geographies. This journey began in the Dhanmondi office of Naripokkho in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1996, during a conversation with Nasreen Huq who inspired, challenged, and encouraged every idea and page of this book. My deepest regret is that she could not witness its fruition. The work and vision of Naripokkho is at the heart of this book, and I wholeheartedly thank each and every activist there who opened their doors, made me feel welcome, and gave so generously of their time over the years. I am especially indebted to Bina Akhter for her tenacity and her indomitable spirit. Her love of life, and commitment to feminism and justice has been the lifeblood of this book.
As a participant-observer, there was a phase when writing about the campaign against acid violence in Bangladesh was insurmountably difficult for me. I owe the deepest of gratitude and appreciation to Professor Cynthia Enloe at Clark University for nudging me ever so persistently over that hurdle, and for being such a brilliant and devoted teacher over the years. Also at Clark, very special thanks are due to Professors Barbara Thomas-Slayter and Parminder Bhachu for their sharp insights and strong support of this project; and to Gai Liewkeat, Michelle Rowley, Young Rae Oum, and Insook Kwon—my Clarkie peers—for their dazzling minds and enduring solidarity.
Research and writing of this book have been supported by grants from the University of Massachusetts Boston Dean's Office, and a Future of Minority Studies (FMS) Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Syracuse University. I am deeply grateful for the space and intellectual camaraderie extended by the Women's Studies Program there, which allowed me to focus undivided attention to this project. Professor Chandra Talpade Mohanty's generous mentorship at Syracuse was invaluable. My wonderful colleagues and students in the Women's Studies Department, and beyond at UMass Boston provided enduring support, and a vibrant intellectual home within which to grow and nurture this book. Professor Jean Humez provided feedback on earlier drafts, and was especially generous to read and comment on the final manuscript in its entirety. Riva Pearson, research assistant extraordinaire, cannot be thanked enough for her diligent and enthusiastic efforts in helping me complete this book. Her judicious editing, formatting, and referencing made those processes relatively painless. To the anonymous reviewers who offered critical feedback on this book, and previously published parts in the form of articles and book chapters, I am deeply grateful. Sincere thanks to my editor, Larin McLaughlin of SUNY Press for believing in this project, and for her enthusiastic support in the early stages of the publishing process. Profuse thanks to Andrew Kenyon, Kelli Williams-LeRoux, and Michael Campochiaro for guiding me through the later stages. Warm appreciation to Shafiqul Alam Kiron for providing the brilliant cover image featuring survivors of acid violence at an International Women's Day Rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To Kiran Asher and Aimee Sisco I owe special thanks for their astute suggestions on the cover design.
My writing and thinking took on new directions since the early days of the dissertation research. Along the way, many people have provided intellectual support, vision, and ideas. In particular, I would like to acknowledge Ping-Ann Addo, Srimati Basu, Connie Buchanan, Amy Den Ouden, Alka Kurian, Liz Philipose, and Elora Shehabuddin.
To my parents, Shamsun Nahar Chowdhury and late Professor Fazlul Halim Chowdhury, and my siblings, Sadeka, Zakia, and Enam, who provided unwavering support, I am so deeply indebted for all that they have taught me about love, compassion, and humanity. To Alok, my life partner, without whose steadfast support, deep understanding, and appreciation of my work this book could not have been completed, I owe heartfelt gratitude. Finally, joyful acknowledgment of Zain and Zahin, my two precious gifts, for showing me every day that life is beautiful.
An earlier version of chapter 1 appeared in 2005 as “Feminist Negotiations: Contesting Narratives of the Campaign Against Acid Violence in Bangladesh,” in Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism , 6(1), 162–93. An earlier version of chapter 2 appeared in 2007 as “Negotiating State and NGO Politics in Bangladesh: Women Mobilize Against Acid Violence,” in Violence Against Women: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal , 13(8), 857–73. Chapter 4 appeared in June 2010 as “Feminism and Its ‘Other’: Representing the ‘New Woman’ of Bangladesh,” in Gender, Place and Culture , 17(3), 301-18. An earlier version of chapter 5 appeared in 2009 as “Transnationalism Reversed: Engaging Religion, Development and Women's Organizing in Bangladesh,” in Women's Studies International Forum , 32(6), 414-23.

The work on acid violence had the power to stir one's imagination… we did the work because it moved us. It was the work of creativity and imagination. In the beginning that is what mobilized us. We did not have resources, or support, but we had the imagination.
—Nasreen Huq, Naripokkho activist, and founder of the campaign against acid violence
In September 2000, I received a phone call from Bina Akhter inviting me to an event honoring television journalist Connie Chung and her ABC 20/20 team for the Amnesty International Media Spotlight Award. Chung's report “Faces of Hope,” which aired nationally in the United States in November 1999, had featured the experiences of two young Bangladeshi women, Bina Akhter and Jharna Akhter (no relation to each other). The event honoring Chung's work, along with that of Teri Whitcraft, the show's producer, was to take place at the Yale Club in New York City and be hosted by Whitcraft's mother. A number of Bina's friends had been invited, and I told Bina that it would be my pleasure to attend. I had just moved to New York City that summer and was looking forward to seeing my old friend and to witness such a momentous occasion honoring her story. Bina and Jharna would be flying in from Cincinnati, where they lived with their American host family. 1
“Faces of Hope” had reported on a growing epidemic of acid attacks against women in Bangladesh. Connie Chung and her journalistic team told their American prime time viewers that the incidence of acid throwing had become highly prevalent among lower socioeconomic groups, in both Bangladesh's urban and rural areas. The ABC reporters noted that the perpetrators were mostly young men and adolescent boys, while the targets were primarily females between twelve and twenty-five years of age. As we will see, although this profile of targets and perpetrators was accurate in the late 1990s when ABC produced its report, in more recent years there has been a shift; today, women, children, and even men are being attacked by acid throwers of both genders, though women continue to comprise the primary targets. According to an UNICEF-Bangladesh report, the overwhelmingly female targets of acid violence are attacked for reasons ranging from rejection of sexual advances from men, refusal of marriage proposals, family or land disputes, vengeance, and unmet dowry demands ( UNICEF, 2000 ).
The televised story had an angle expected to give it immediacy for its American viewers. In particular, the 20/20 report focused on the compelling story of a courageous young girl, Bina Akhter, whose strength and tenacity in the face of unspeakable horrors left the television audience stupefied. The story peripherally focused on Jharna Akhter, another young girl

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