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‘That was a good move’—Some remarks on the (ir)relevance of ‘narratives of secularism’ in everyday politics in Bangladesh


Schulz, Mascha (2020). ‘That was a good move’—Some remarks on the (ir)relevance of ‘narratives of secularism’ in everyday politics in Bangladesh. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 54(2):236-258.

Abstract

This article explores the complex role of political ideologies in everyday politics and for urban middle-class Bangladeshis’ evaluation of political parties. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research and, more specifically, conversations and contentions around the removal of ‘Lady Justice’ from the front of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 2017, I show that although the Awami League continues to be considered a ‘secular party’, many people do not believe that the Awami League is implementing secular policy and criticise it for what they perceive as ‘hypocrisy’. I argue that this seemingly paradoxical situation can be explained by a political structure that is marked by high factionalism and party competition. Data from research among politicians and the left-leaning, so-called ‘culturally-minded’ milieu in Sylhet, shows that certain segments of the educated middle class acknowledge the pragmatic realities of politics and do not expect the Awami League to act ‘progressively’. Nonetheless, they continue to position the party’s ‘progressive’ and ‘secular’ ideological basis as a primary reason for supporting the party. The article thus contributes to a deeper understanding of contemporary popular and elite practices and perceptions of party politics, democracy, and what might be labelled the ‘party-state effect’.

Abstract

This article explores the complex role of political ideologies in everyday politics and for urban middle-class Bangladeshis’ evaluation of political parties. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research and, more specifically, conversations and contentions around the removal of ‘Lady Justice’ from the front of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 2017, I show that although the Awami League continues to be considered a ‘secular party’, many people do not believe that the Awami League is implementing secular policy and criticise it for what they perceive as ‘hypocrisy’. I argue that this seemingly paradoxical situation can be explained by a political structure that is marked by high factionalism and party competition. Data from research among politicians and the left-leaning, so-called ‘culturally-minded’ milieu in Sylhet, shows that certain segments of the educated middle class acknowledge the pragmatic realities of politics and do not expect the Awami League to act ‘progressively’. Nonetheless, they continue to position the party’s ‘progressive’ and ‘secular’ ideological basis as a primary reason for supporting the party. The article thus contributes to a deeper understanding of contemporary popular and elite practices and perceptions of party politics, democracy, and what might be labelled the ‘party-state effect’.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:790 Sports, games & entertainment
390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Language:English
Date:June 2020
Deposited On:15 Feb 2021 15:34
Last Modified:16 Feb 2021 21:01
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0069-9667
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0069966720914056

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