Session Abstract: This panel explores the construction of the new, empowered subjecthood and its intersection with the politics of gender, class, and transnational and neoliberal conditions in Bangladesh. It pays specific attention to social movements, visual culture, and modernization projects to examine the complex play of emerging identities which are objects of neoliberal development policies and structural inequities.
Drawing on two documentary films – The Rising Silence and The Poison Thorn – the first paper investigates contradictory notions of women’s subjectivity in visual media representing women as emancipated subjects of neoliberalism or victimized objects of culture, and asks how these intersect with shifting notions of local/global patriarchies, corporate globalization, feminist solidarity, and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh. The second paper examines three female characters from films – Nirontor, Runway, and Under Construction – to demonstrate how the visual representation of working-class Bangladeshi women transcends the virgin-whore dichotomy and popular male gaze theories. Drawing on ethnographic work with women garment workers in Bangladesh, the third paper suggests that feminist politics premised on liberal notions of religion as always regressive and by definition against women’s interests, allows academic and activist agendas to ignore the politics of class and transnational and neoliberal conditions under which factory workers labor. The fourth paper examines the road safety movement led by Bangladeshi youths in 2018 and unravels how this movement, on the one hand, demonstrates the way contemporary neoliberal repressive regimes adopt strategies to subsume gendered and classed grassroots protests and, on the other hand, reveals solidarity building practices.