Accepted Paper:

The obfuscating narrative of 'climate refugee': Political Ecology and Gendered migration in coastal Bangladesh  
Camelia Dewan (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

Examining the linkages between ecology, land use and labour in coastal Bangladesh, this paper critiques the ‘climate change refugee’ narrative by looking at complex patterns of mobility among women to the brick kilns, Dhaka Ready-Made Garments and the Middle East.

Paper long abstract:

This paper seeks to provide a space for the lived experiences of men and women in the coastal flood plains of Bangladesh and what they themselves identify as risks and challenges. Bangladesh is often portrayed as a 'climate change victim' and evokes an image of a land drowning in floods and cyclones, with people fleeing as 'climate change refugees'. Through an ethnographically grounded understanding of the linkages between ecology, land use and labour, this study seeks to complicate this picture by pointing to historically grounded patterns of seasonal migration and increased labour opportunities for women outside the villages, in the brick kilns, Dhaka Ready-Made Garments (RMG) and increasingly, the Middle East. It argues that the 'climate change refugee' narrative obfuscates complicated processes and decisions of everyday migration, and thus neglects both the agency of migrants and the historicity of migration. This paper seeks to understand, from the point of the poorest segments of women in the coastal areas, what it means to live in a supposedly climate risk zone. It does so by examining the changing social relations, economic structures and development discourses that produce and subvert climate change as both an idea and a lived experience (cf Shah 2010:32).

Panel P30
Understanding everyday perceptions: a new wave of climate change and migration research.