The Politics Within Politics: The Fear of Loss and Hope of Gains at Dhaka University


Start date: 1 September, 2008 End date: 1 July, 2013 Project type: Smaller projects: PhD Project code: 03-08-RCT Countries: Bangladesh Thematic areas: Gender equality, Health, State building, governance and civil society, Lead institution: Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY), Denmark Partner institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Policy Brief: Read Project coordinator: Morten Koch Andersen Total grant: 401,186 DKK

Project summary

This project explores how governance, politics and authority operate in present day Bangladesh. The project centres on the sites of incubation of political leaders and state servants - the youth in student politics. The aim is to explore the interplay between youth's efforts to manage life and livelihood within organisations, and the organisations efforts to mobilise and guide youth to advance political projects. The subject is the interplay of state exercise of authority and political agency of organisations and people in the blurred boundaries between state practices, student politics and youth agency. Focus is on how governance and public authority are contested and shaped in relation to how youth appropriate membership of the student organisations, asking: 1) How and under what circumstances do student organisations emerged as a social and political force? 2) How do exercises of political and religious authority inform the mobilisation of youth and the turn to violence? 3) How do the youths navigate and shape the social environment for own desires and wants? Student organisations have contributed to the continous upheaval of violence to protest or condone political leadership and decision making through mass demonstrations, strikes or blocades. Although collective violence is a regular feature of social and political life in South Asia, limited research has ventured to explore how mobilisation of youth informs governance, politics and authority. The study addresses this academic void and aims to give an account of how and why Bangladesh has experienced a variety of contestations of public authority, social turmoil and violent conflict since the foundation as an independent state in 1971. The focus on the processes of youths' mobilisation addresses the exercise of governance and authority upon which programs of 'good governance' and 'rights based development' could be designed and implemented to prevent violence and reduce the risks of social instability.


Project Completion Report:
The research show that political motivated violence is engrained jn party politics and that this violence and the threat of violence is constitutive for the operation of organized recruitment and mobilization of young activists. Within and between political parties and party front organizations violence and the threat of violence is a means to settle and operate decision making hierarchies in the competitive struggle for political status and leverage and associated access to party, organizational and state embedded resources. I show how young student are recruited and mobilized into organizations in the know of the organizational irnpetus for violence as an investment in a propable and potential future of social becoming and economic solvency, where the organizational strict hierarchy work as a competitative opportunity structure through which the youth can access desired rewards and benefits. As such political involvement is about stabalizing and foreseeing a sough after future in an unpredictable and uncertain situation of state transformation and political turmoil.

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