The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2013 | Climate Change, Migration and Gender in Coastal Bangladesh
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Climate Change, Migration and Gender in Coastal Bangladesh

Principal supervisor: Dr Sunil Amrith (Birkbeck)

Co-supervisor: Professor David Mosse (SOAS)

Few countries in the world are more vulnerable to the social and economic effects of climate change than Bangladesh. This PhD project will address the social, economic and cultural effects of climate change in coastal Bangladesh, integrating historical and anthropological perspectives on gender, vulnerability and migration.

The project aims:

  • To elucidate the notion of "environmental migration". How has the meaning of this category shifted over time? How far is "environmental" migration distinctive from other sorts of migration?
  • To analyse the environmental and social effects of changing coastal economies.
  • To study the ways in which single women and female-headed households have adapted to environmental change.
  • To explain the process of decision-making and brokerage in migration. The research will examine in-depth the paths of mobility open to different parts of the population, and to women in particular, extending to a detailed consideration of family decision-making, the role of intermediaries and impacts of migration.
  • To examine the impact of national borders on the lives of coastal populations: how do Bangladeshis who inhabit the coastal region near the border with India experience the maritime border in their daily lives?

The project will combine historical and ethnographic methods. The history of environmental change in the region will be examined through archival sources, combined with 6-12 months ethnographic fieldwork in coastal Bangladesh, which will involve in-depth interviews with migrant women, fishing communities, government officials, and environmental activists.

The successful candidate will work under the supervision of Dr Sunil Amrith, an historian at Birkbeck, and Professor David Mosse, an anthropologist at SOAS. By combining disciplinary perspectives, the project will be able to inform debates on South Asia's borderlands, on the region's environmental history and its current challenges.

Candidate Requirements

The successful candidate will have prior experience of working in Bangladesh, with the requisite linguistic competence and local knowledge of the coastal districts. Ideally, they will have developed a particular awareness of questions relating to gender, migration and water security, and will exhibit a willingness to work in an inter-disciplinary context. Candidates with relevant policy experience are particularly encouraged to apply.

The candidate will have the opportunity to take advantage of the diverse training opportunities available at both Birkbeck and SOAS. The project is closely linked with Dr Amrith's current European Research Council-funded project, "Coastal Frontiers", hosted by the Birkbeck Department of History, and the successful candidate will be invited to take full part in the workshops and meetings that will be convened under the auspices of that project.

Key References

Sunil Amrith, Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants (Harvard, 2013)

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt and Gopa Samanta, "'Like the Drifting Grains of Sand': Vulnerability, Security and Adjustment by Communities in the Charlands of the Damodar River, India", South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 30:2, 327-350.

David Mosse et al. 2002, 'Brokered Livelihoods: Debt, Labour Migration and Development in Tribal Western India.' Journal of Development Studies.38 (5): 59-88

R.J.Nicholls and A Cazenave, "Sea-level Rise and its Impact on Coastal Zones," Science, 328, 1517-20.

Willem van Schendel, A History of Bangladesh (Cambridge 2009).

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal supervisor: Dr Sunil Amrith,,

Co-supervisor: Professor David Mosse,,

Further information about PhDs at Birkbeck is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Daniel Binney (Postgraduate Administrator), T: + 44 (0) 20 7631 6268

Closing date for applications is 1 March 2013