Accepted paper:

Understanding urban order in Bangladesh: gangsters, violence and party politics


David Jackman (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation examines the nature of urban order in Bangladesh. It explores the significance of gangsters, party politics, and how people improve their status by demonstrating the capacity for violence.

Paper long abstract:

Urban Bangladesh has seen radical change over the past decade. From being dominated by entrepreneurial gangsters, often known locally as mastan, it is now more explicitly controlled by wings of the ruling party. In many ways party figures have simply replaced the gangsters at lower levels, mediating access to work and services, operating extortion networks and illegal businesses. But this party politicisation of urban life has also brought a greater degree of stability to the social order. This presentation will make these arguments through recent ethnographic research from a large, and infamous, market place at the centre of Dhaka. It will sketch the rise and fall of a prominent local gangster, and examine the significance of party politics today. Studying a group of labourers, it will also explore how people negotiate their place within this order, rising in status through demonstrating the capacity for violence.

panel P25
South Asian bossism