Mobility aspirations and indigenous belonging among Chakma students in Dhaka

Jacco Visser, Eva Gerharz

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In recent decades, indigenous people from the Chittagong Hill Tracts
(CHT) in South-east Bangladesh have experienced increased social and
spatial mobility. This article investigates how indigenous students from
the CHT region who have migrated to Dhaka redefine indigenous
belonging. By highlighting the juxtaposition of different forms of mobility
(physical and social) the paper responds to a recent trend which has
only rarely been the subject of scholarly enquiry. In particular, it examines
the experiences of mobility of individual students and explores the
ways in which these students justify their quest for higher education to
fulfil their aspirations for a better future. The paper also reveals the
obstacles students experience in their everyday lives, mainly in the
form of stereotypical, often racist talk. It discusses the structural disadvantages
indigenous students face as members of ethnic minorities as
well as the strategies employed by the students to counter them.
Furthermore, the paper illustrates how indigenous students negotiate
urban lifestyles and redefine modernity and indigeneity simultaneously
and how migrants face exclusion based on static interpretations of
people from the CHT as put forward in mainstream discourses as well
as by transnational indigenous activist networks. These lead to feelings
of alienation between indigenous students and their Bengali
Bangladeshi peers, leaving students to increasingly draw on indigenous
networks to achieve mobility
Original languageEnglish
JournalSouth Asian History and Culture
Pages (from-to)370-385
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016


  • Mobility;
  • Belonging
  • Bangladesh
  • Chittagong Hill Tracts
  • university education


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