Globalization, Class and Gender Relations: The Shrimp

 Industry in South-western Bangladesh

Meghna Guhathakurta  


This paper argues that the impact of globalization on third world countries in Bangladesh is essentially systemic in nature. It looks at the specific case of shrimp industry in south western Bangladesh as a case which illustrates the linking of global capitalism with the local economy. The impact of the shrimp industry on gender relations is analysed in the backdrop of the overall socio-economic and structural transformation, which is taking place within the region. Through this analysis an attempt is made to shed light on the specific nature of global capitalism being perpetrated in countries like Bangladesh.



Pro-globalization scholars often argue that those who critique globalization blame everything on it: misgovernance, corruption, pollution etc. It is as if nothing would have happened if globalization had not occurred. The issue at stake in this debate is basically two different conceptions of globalization. The first is a perception of globalization as a kind of policy input into the developmental decisions of lesser - developed countries. The second is to perceive globalization as a systemic phenomenon, one, which results in a whole system of political, economic and administrative change that has implications for the older order. Pro-globalization scholars therefore argue that through adopting relevant policy measures a developing country should integrate with the world economy for its own betterment. The anti-globalization scholars maintain that globalization is only a manifestation of the world capitalist system with its in-built mechanisms for the exploitation of resources.  Thus according to the anti-globalists the effects of globalization would necessarily be systemic and all pervasive and not related to merely one set of policies or policy-sector. This is what I will try to show in my review of the impact of shrimp cultivation on women’s lives and livelihood in south-western Bangladesh. It is a contention of this paper that the advent of shrimp cultivation has served to link Bangladesh with the global economy and in doing so it has resulted in the disarticulation of a subsistence peasant economy at a pace hitherto unanticipated. This had had special implication for women of the region, both economically and socially and in some cases is leading to political resistance.


The southwestern region of Bangladesh consists of the southern lowlands of the current districts of Bagerhat, Khulna and Satkhira.  It is a coastal area constituted by fresh waters of the innumerable rivers and distributaries, which end up in the saline waters of the Bay of Bengal. It is a region, which house part of the world’s largest mangrove forests, the Sundarbans. According to the Gazette of 1978 the area covered by the Sundarbans were recorded as 2,316 square miles. This tidal plain with mangrove forests is the most complex ecosystem with the highest biological productivity in the world. The intricate intertwining of the environment and peoples’ lives and livelihood is a noticeable feature in this region or rather it was until the influence of the mono-culture of shrimp cultivation began to disarticulate this organic link between people and environment.


One of the first evidence of the change and transformations taking place is to be found in the pattern of land usage. According to the data provided by satellite it was estimated that in the three upazilas under study (Shyamnagar, Kaliganj and Fakirhat) the total percentage of change in land use averaged 15.62% of the total land in the area. The maximum change was recorded in Kaliganj upazila (32.54%), second came Fakirhat Upazila (21.05%) and finally Shyamnagar Upazila, 11.508%). The change is land use in an area traditionally rich in agriculture and fishing has important and serious repercussions for lives and livelihood.


Although the impact of the shrimp industry on the economy and environment of the area is visible and easily noticed, it’s effect on gender relations and in the domain of the family and personal relationships has been more disguised. Yet since the family and household are intricately interwoven in the sustenance of a peasant society, the very delinking of the peasant economy from subsistence agriculture to an export oriented agro-based shrimp industry necessitates change in gender relations as well. But since this change is part and parcel of the structural transformation taking place in both production and production relations in the area, I will first try to understand these changes from an overall perspective and then look at processes taking place in gender relations.


Integration with global capitalism

According to Immanuel Wallerstein (1979), capitalism was from the very beginning an affair of the world-economy and not of nation-states. Therefore what takes place in a particular locality can be truly understood by looking at it from its links with or distance from the capitalist world economy. One of the essential features of a capitalist world economy is production for sale in a market in which the object is to realize the maximum profit. Here however it must be remembered that the maximum profit is reaped only by the capitalist world order and its representatives/compradors. Although it may be construed that peripheral nations or ordinary people distanced from the centre of capitalism may also benefit from the system (the classic trickle-down effect), in effect what they reap is a windfall, and not a profit. In a capitalist order, two exchange partners can reap windfalls simultaneously but only one can obtain maximum profit, since the exchange of surplus value within a system is a zero-sum game. If we trace this logic within the space of Bangladesh, we can see similarly that only those located near to the metropolis or centre can appropriate a portion of the surplus. Others like labourers, sharecroppers may reap a short-term gain through creation of employment opportunities or through the leasing of land to shrimp farms but they do not enjoy the profit from the industries. That is the sole prerogative of the ‘gher owners’. 


Capitalism means labour as commodity. But according to Wallerstein, in an era of agricultural capitalism, wage labour is only one of the modes in which labour is recruited and recompensed in the labour market. Slavery, coerced cash-crop production, sharecropping, and tenancy are all alternative modes. Thus with the growth of the shrimp industry we notice features such as the diversion of productive land into shrimp farms. Along with it is seen the consequent release of farm labour either into trade or activities subsidizing shrimp farming e.g catching shrimp fries, transportation of shrimp fries, or where feasible rearing of cattle and poultry.  All these activities are relevant in the mapping out of the structural transformations taking place in the area as a consequence of the shrimp industry.


The inscription of women into the world capitalist economy

Third world women workers occupy a specific social location in the international division of labour, which illuminates and explains crucial features of the capitalist processes of exploitation and domination. (Alexander and Mohanty, 1997)  These are features of the social world which are usually obfuscated or mystified in discourses about progress and development e.g. creation of jobs for poor, women’s economic and social advancement. Interconnections between gender, and ethnicity and the ideologies of work locate women in particular exploitative contexts. In the case of women either living or dwelling in the localities of the shrimp industry it is easy to see how contemporary global capitalism positions women workers in ways which effectively both reproduces and transforms locally specific hierarchies. Maria Mies in her seminal work on the Lace Makers of Narsapur (Mies, 1982) studied Indian housewives who were producing lace for the world market. She points out that ideologies of seclusion and the domestication of women are clearly sexual drawing as they do on masculine and feminine notion of protectionism and property. They are also heterosexual ideologies based on the normative definitions of women as wives, sisters and mothers – always in relation to conjugal marriage and the family. Domestication works into the capitalist mould through the persistence and legitimacy of the ideology of the housewife, which defines women in terms of their place within the home, conjugal marriage and heterosexuality. It defines women as non-workers and consequently trivializes women’s labours. Their definition as housewives makes possible the definition of men as breadwinners. Here class and gender proletarianization through the development of capitalist relations of production, and the integration of women into the world market is possible because of the history and transformation of indigenous caste/class and sexual ideologies. What this means is that although production for the world market may throw open opportunities for women to enter the market as wage labourers, capitalism may very well work with the patriarchal culture of the region to devalue women’s work in the market and simultaneously extol ideologies of domestication. Hence instead of a classical case of capitalism freeing women’s labour, we see the onset of a capitalist patriarchal culture which eulogizes the domestic sphere and hence keeps women from joining the workforce in greater numbers.


I would therefore like to argue that in a situation where subsistence economy based on household production and consumption is undergoing structural transformation, it is women who have to confront the dual scourges of capitalist exploitation and patriarchal hegemony in their struggle to adapt to changing realities.  But before we take up the subject of gender relations it will be appropriate to first gauge some of the structural transformations taking place in the region.


Structural transformations in class relations

Structural transformation is evident in changing class hierarchies within the region. For example, during and after the Partition of 1947, the area was mostly Hindu dominated with the Hindu zamindars controlling the lion's share of the landholding. It was also an area, which had yielded a great variety of crops along with the staple rice and where the adjunct Sundarban forests and the intertwining of the multitudinal rivers provided employment opportunities of a wide variety. Hence a stratified system of caste-specific hierarchies was also predominant which evolved round particular occupations, for example, kolus, (those who ground oil from mustard seeds), rishis, (trading in leather and leather products), moualis and bawalis ( thriving from the forests) and weavers and fishermen. Traditional subsistence agriculture also included subsidiary activities like cattle rearing and poultry farming, all of which are endangered with the environmental degradation resulting from shrimp cultivation. All these activities as well as the position of those whose subsistence depended on these activities are undergoing change. For some the cash economy being introduced with the advent of the shrimp industry has proved to be a blessing, especially those who could adapt their skills to the changing scenario. For example those landless labourers who could switch to fishing for fries in the rivers could be assured of a steady income which was no longer haunted by the scourges of Mora Kartik (the lean season of Bengal when spectres of famine loom large). Or even those like the Kolus who used to grind mustard seeds to produce oil for the market have merely changed into petty traders buying from the oil mills and selling the oil in the local bazaars, thus transforming a productive community into a trading one. The caste-oriented professional boundaries are also undergoing change. Previously, many of these communities were looked down on as their work was not considered clean by the upper caste Hindus. Interestingly even with the exodus of the upper caste Hindus to India, the influential propertied Muslims also held the same taboos as their predecessors. I was told by the coordinator of a local NGO that he learnt to treat the Rishis as their equal from a Christian Missionary.  (Rishis were traditionally not allowed to enter the households of rich Hindus or Muslims and were given food in banana leaves outside the house). But currently many of these professions which prove lucrative are being taken over by peasants and landless labourers outside the traditional caste boundaries. The injection of the cash economy therefore is eroding traditional caste boundaries and in certain cases a certain upward mobilty among the poor can be noticed. For example those who catch fries mention they can get 50 to 60 taka per day for an average catch. This is ready cash in hand, whilst as day labourers, cash payment would be uncertain and their payment would partially be in kind, e.g. one meal a day. Also in the words of a rich Hindu landlord whose wealth has visibly diminished, some of his previous workers often ask him whether he needs work!!


But there is another side to the picture. Not everyone is benefiting from these transformations. Many among the poor still hold onto their lands and are used to tilling the land. They somehow do not possess the aptitude to do any other kind of work. They are the ones who feel intimidated by the changes taking place. They also feel that the shrimp industry is aggravating the difference between the rich and the poor. 


Thus we see that structural changes are taking place in two ways.  First, those who have lots of land are benefiting from a windfall gain in profits reaped from leasing their land to shrimp farms. This is turning a class of hardworking farmers into a rural-based intermediate class. However, they admit that there is a certain degree of risk involved since the payments promised may not be as forthcoming from the gher owner if a virus affects the crop. Second, it is also creating a class of poor who are not left with any other alternative work except to work for the industry through collecting and selling fries or work in the farms or leasing their lands to them. Environmental degradation has succeeded in displacing agricultural and agriculture related work and activities like rearing of cattle and poultry. It has also proletariatized a class who previously could depend on the economy of a stable agricultural household. Now everything is bought and sold in the market. There is no stock of rice available for handouts in the lean season anymore. Two features characterize the emergence of this class of poor labourers no longer dependent on the land. First, the daily payment in cash for their annual catch or work is a welcome change from the delaying tactics of their former landholding masters. Second, the change in the relations of production has brought about certain starkness in the confrontation between the rich and the poor. Many of the older norms of society /shomaj, which used to bind together a village society no longer exists. Thus class relations are more prone to violence and the poor find themselves defenceless against the representatives of a predatory state bent on pocketing the lions share of profit from the industry.


Gender relations

In the back drop of the above structural transformation taking place in the region I will now discuss gender relations in the following contexts.


The household economy

Women, shrimp industry and environmental risks

The role of the state

Women’s resistance


The household economy

In a subsistence peasant economy, women had an important role to play in the production process, although this role hardly ever got acknowledged in public documents like the census. The staple crop of a subsistence agricultural household was rice, and the core of women’s work began after the rice was harvested. Her tasks involved, threshing, husking, and parboiling. In certain regions she was also in charge of looking after and preserving the seeds for the next season. Depending on the size of the household, a woman would either find herself doing all these works or have several paid helping hands. An agricultural household had its own time cycle and work rhythm. There would be lean seasons like Mora Kartik and peak seasons of harvest marked by heightened social activities and festivities. Land-based livelihoods also provided its own opportunities for subsidiary activities like cattle-rearing, poultry farming or kitchen gardening which worked in synergy with agricultural production. One of the prime consequences of the disarticulation of the peasantry resulting from the growth of shrimp monoculture was felt in the displacement of women from the sphere of agricultural production. Women who gained from leasing their land off to gher owners, expressed relief from the back breaking work they had to undergo when they had to till their own land. But others lamented the displacement. Among them were two categories. First there were poor women who had depended on working for the richer households as sustenance. But those who had found more lucrative work in catching shrimp fries felt that they were now in a less oppressive environment where they had guaranteed cash. But in terms of labour and security the risks were high. This will be discussed in the next section. But some poor women claimed that previously they received help from those agricultural households who always had some grains in stock, especially during the lean season. Now since everyone had to buy from the market, they too were not in a position to help them. Second, women in middle-income households also felt the same way. Previously they could consume their own produce or sell them in the market. They retained a certain amount of control over their produce. But now, even assuming that they had enough cash in hand, the market dictated their consumption pattern. Savings too were in cash and had to be put into banks. Gone were the days when women could save by taking “ek mutho chal” (a fistful of rice) from current consumption and store them away for some activity like buying school books for her children, or buying herself some ornaments. Forms of saving now took place largely as credit schemes of NGOs or where possible through poultry raising or kitchen gardening.


Women in middle and rich income households were still largely dictated by the ideology of domestication, which accompanied their conjugal status in the households as wives and mothers. Thus many women claimed that it was not proper for them to go out and work as wage labour. Many wanted to work within the home given the opportunity. But most of them relied on raising poultry and cattle rearing as a means of earning an extra income. Conjugality therefore was an important determining factor in deciding whether women should work for wages or not. It was therefore mostly in the lower income household and those women who were without a male guardian that wage labour took predominance.


Women, the shrimp industry and environmental risks

Poor landless women and women without a male guardian were especially drawn to the only economic activity that was left to them in the region, that is collecting shrimp fries in the rivers. This they have to do in knee-deep water pulling their nets behind them. The rivers being very near to the coast also respond to tides of the sea. When the water is warm, sharks and crocodiles also find their way upstream and accidents are not infrequent. Some reported that one of their fellow member’s legs had been torn apart by a shark. Another told of the time she had been abducted by robbers in the Sunderbans who demanded ten thousand takas in ransom. Her brother’s family who was too poor to pay the sum in full had to sell her fishing net the only source of her income to gain her release! What a vicious circle if ever there was one!


Shrimp cultivation is expanding so fast that it is taking up not only agricultural lands in the area, but also much of the khas or government land by the roadsides, which by law, is to be distributed by the local government to the landless. Many women feel deprived of their rights to this land, and therefore feel the need to put pressure on the government. But this is not easy, given the fact that many of those who own the shrimp farms are not only members of the local power structure but also involved in national politics at the highest level. 


Another important deprivation is the loss of grazing land.  The Union of Kaliganj is situated in a slightly higher plane than Munshiganj (Shyamnagar thana) in the south, which skirts the fringes of the Sunderbans. Traditionally, farmers of Kaliganj area used to send their cattle to graze for the season down to the lowlands where poor families often earned an income by looking after the livestock. But from Kaliganj to Munshiganj, an hour-long drive, all along on one side one looks at a bleak landscape of shrimp farms, without trees, without vegetation in fact without a single scrap of grass in sight. On the other side of the road in contrast green fields interweave gracefully with full flowing rivers, the edges of it’s banks adorned with the leafy branches of the Sundari trees. But it is not only cattle-rearing that is affected. Lack of fodder also prevents poor people from raising goats and poultry as income-generation activities. This has often left only one opening for income generation in the area and that is fishing for small fish fries in the numerous rivers of the locality. 

Women of the area particularly are victims of the socio-economic transformation described above. When I visited a local group of 18 women who were members of local NGO, Sushilan, they all turned out to be married but without husbands. Only three were widowed, their husbands killed by tigers in the forests while foraging for their living. The rest of the women were either divorced or deserted by their husbands who due to lack of agricultural land, could not find any work as labourers and hence not being able to cope with managing a family either crossed the border or migrated elsewhere looking for jobs! Yet we are told that the more we integrate with the world-economy the more our chances of full employment! Shrimp cultivators do not use local labour for their farms. Moreover, their work is seasonal for which they bring in labourers from another region. As a double curse for the destitute and deserted women, many of these men enter into relationship and marry them only to desert them again when the season is over. The women are left to fend for themselves and their children, for of course the men do not take the children with them! 


The role of the state

The picture portrayed above implies that the shrimp farm areas or ghers as they are locally known are areas of social conflict and tension. The common source of these conflicts has been over the issue of land usage since shrimp cultivation has brought radical changes in land use patterns (Ghafur, Kamal et. al., 1999). The state manifests itself in these conflicts at different levels. The Government of Bangladesh support shrimp cultivation since it is supposed to bring in much coveted foreign exchange into the economy. Processed shrimp they maintain comprises the largest export commodity of these generated employment opportunities.  Since the 1980s the Government of Bangladesh has been offering incentives to businessmen based in cities to enter into this profitable business. It has extended support by way of administrative backup and bank loans. There were also regulations mentioned such as the condition that voluntary consent of 85% of local landowners must be had before taking over land for shrimp cultivation. But the entry point of businessmen who were outsiders to the area had been ensured through the use of locally hired musclemen together with the political support especially by local authorities. As case after case showed it is this configuration which has been at the root of most of violence in the area.


In a report on the socio-economic and environmental impact of shrimp culture in south-western Bangladesh by Ghafur et al (1999), the authors list the principal sources of social conflict in the gher areas:


forced or false contractual agreement on leasing of land

non or partial payment of lease-money called Hari.

Dispute over khas land

Insecurity owing to physical torture and molestation of women

Fear generated by environmental impact

Semi-intensive mode of shrimp culture

Deteriorating health

State patronization for farm-owners


Some of the violence took the form of murder or attempted murder, grievous bodily harm or infliction of deliberate injuries. Abductions also take place in connection with shrimp related controversies. Setting ablaze the farms have also been known to happen to put pressure on the opponent. Implicating opponents in false cases is a very common tactic. In all this the state mechanism plays a vital role. The government policy, law and its implementation all go in favour of the rich shrimp farmer and turn a blind eye to the interest of the landless peasant and marginal farmer. Social tension arises from the insecurity of food and lack of work opportunities for a large number of coastal people. Shrimp cultivation brings in rich and powerful outsiders who often control the areas at gun-point, and their hired hooligans play havoc in the areas (Ghafur, 1999:52).


Local authorities especially play an intermediary role in this situation. Charges against hooligans and musclemen are often not framed and the labyrinth of time-consuming legal procedures more often than not deters victims from seeking justice. Even when a case is being tried, local musclemen are active in preventing any eyewitnesses from giving evidence in court as well as the bribing of local level officials so that they ignore or twist that evidence. In one case where a criminal case has been filed against hooligans who beat up a poor farmer, it was reported that the officer in charge of the relevant police station had dropped the names of the main accused from the charge sheet. The trial was still on but the local people were skeptical of its outcome or effectiveness. In another case of double murder, allegation of partiality was brought against the Assistant Police super of C.I.D. Khulna who after long investigation was going to submit a charge sheet regarding the double murder over the control of Bidyar Bahan Gher. C.I.D. Headquarters rejected the memo of evidence and the case was transferred to the Jessore zone (Ghafur et. al. 1999:60). In other incidents where cases have been filed by the ‘shrimp lords’ themselves, especially against poor landless farmers, the police were quick in their arrests, and their hyperactivity came under suspicion (Ghafur et. al., 1999,64).


Poor women in the shrimp areas were concerned primarily of their security.  In many cases they were held hostage to the tyranny of the shrimp lords. Their insecurity was enhanced by the fact that they did not feel that the local authorities were there to protect them but rather added to their worries. Poor landless women told of various instances when they were allegedly apprehended by the police and charged of smuggling sarees across the border. Women once caught by the police were often trafficked across the border to be sold as housemaids and prostitutes in India, Pakistan and the Middle East. Therefore women are always on the alert not to fall into such a trap.  Among the most common types of insecurity which faced women in these areas were rape, threat, false cases, cattle lifting, physical torture. Verbal abuse, forced marriages, fear of theft, dacoity and terrorism were also not uncommon. The triggering condition for all insecurities however was the scarcity of food and cash. (Ghafur et. al., 1999: 87)


Women’s resistance

With the state playing such a restrictive and negative role for the poor in general and women in particular, it is not surprising therefore to witness the outburst of many resistance movement in the area and the active participation of women. One of the more popular stories of resistance is around the killing of Karunamayee Sarder in polder 22.


Karunamayee Sarder of village of Bigordana under the Deluti Union of Paikgacha thana was a leader of landless womens group and member of the Bittyahin Shamabai Samity. The local people and Karunamayee’s family alleged that mercenaries of the shrimp lord Wazed Ali Biswas killed her ruthlessly.


Wazed was planning to set up a shrimp farm forcefully and illegally over two thousand bighas of land in the village of Horinkhola of Polder 22. For this, he wanted to get a lease agreement from a few absentee owners. But most of the inhabitants, mainly landless and marginal peasants were strongly opposed to shrimp farming because of the hazards it brought with it. From the experience of neighbouring polders they were alerted that the whole area may be affected by salinity and the ecosystem would be destroyed. Health hazards accompanied the salinity and land would then be unfit for cattle grazing.


Polder 22 covers an area inhabited by ten thousand people from 14 villages. The area consists of about 11 thousand bighas. A 17 km. long embankment was made to protect the crop from saline water. Under financial assistance from the government of Netherlands, a project was undertaken to ensure the development of the polder area agriculturally and socially. A NGO called Nijera Kori and the subsequently formed local Bittyahin Shamabai Samiti was given responsibility for this project. So the movement was spearheaded by these organizations.


On 7th November 1990 at about 10.00 am five trawlers carrying cadres of Wazed Ali came to Horinkhola to cut the embankment in order to set up a shrimp farm. Hearing the news, members of the Bittyahin Shamabai Samity brought out a peaceful procession, chanting slogans in protest of the shrimp-farm. Wazed’s men attacked the innocent people ruthlessly with fatal arms like guns, bombs and sharp instruments. Karunamoyee who was leading the procession died instantly, part of her skull severed from her body. Twenty more people were seriously wounded. The 7th of November is observed every year in memory of the late Karunamoyee, who is till today regarded as a martyr in the locality. (Ghafur et. al, 1999:63-64)


The death of Zahida Bibi and the movement, which accompanied it, was yet another event, which caused much uproar in the area. The year was 1998. Here too the root cause were a group of influential and powerful people who in collaboration with local government officials and the police sought to forcefully evict thousands of landless families and acquire several hundred acres of land for shrimp farming. It was illegally done through the bribing of local officials and producing false documents. The landless then organised themselves together and starting petitioning the local leaders and MPs. Despite the mobilization when the District magistrate ordered the police to occupy the land in question, the landless organised a protest march and confronted the police. It was at this time when Zahida Bibi a landless woman carrying a child in one arm and a broom in another as a symbol of her protest at being made homeless, broke through the police barricade and marched towards the District Magistrate. This took the officials by surprise and they gave the order to shoot. Zahida Bibi and her child were mowed to the ground by bullets. Many people were injured. It took several hundred angry demonstrators to keep the pressure on the government to take effective measures against the officials  (Mridha, 1998).


The above incidents indicate the nature and intensity of mobilization taking place in the region. This mobilization has been spearheaded by left organizations like the Communist Party as well as by local level NGOs like Nijera Kori, Sushilan, and Prodipon. They have been able to organise landless men and women and give them a voice against the shrimp farmers and local level authorities.  Even apart from major incidents like the ones narrated above, the day to day life of women and men in these areas have been one of struggle and resistance. 


Women group members of Sushilan narrated stories of resistance when they occupied a khas land and built a structure for their very needy group member in the face of opposition from very powerful people. The law and order authorities had to comply in the face of their solidarity.  The poor women driven to a corner had therefore found their own answer to their problem: resistance! But how strong are they in the face of a predatory state with high stakes in pocketing the lion’s share of foreign exchange earning industries!  



The growth of the shrimp industry in southwestern Bangladesh has generated a process of structural transformation, which affected both class and gender relations in the area. Much of this transformation has been studied in terms of confrontation, violence and conflict. Although this has been more volatile during the initial period of growth of the shrimp it had not disappeared from the scene altogether in the later period of the relative stabilization of the industry. Rather both violence and conflict has been systematized in the evolving social structures and hierarchies. Much of this has to do with the nature of the ‘industry’ itself. It is an agro-based industry dependent on natural factors as much as it is on labour and capital. Incidences of overflooding can cause havoc to shrimp farms as well as virus attacks. The risk of unprofitable returns often results in a volatile situation where vulnerable groups such as the landless, or those totally dependent on catching shrimp fries are made the ultimate victims.


But what this paper also states is that it is not only violence and conflict, which characterizes the process of social transformation. Adaptation of older forms of social hierarchies into newer forms and structures whether of professions or living patterns are also the feature of this new social landscape. Changing social and gender relations have to be contextualised in this perspective. The nuances of what takes place in the delinking of a subsistence economy or in the integration with the global economy has yet to be researched in detail. It is only when such empirical details are available that we can theoretically interpret the realities of southwestern Bangladesh in the light of propositions of the world economy or the dual ideologies of capitalism and patriarchy as was mentioned in the beginning of the paper. What this paper has tried to do is to provide enough evidence to indicate that further research on these topics would prove to be crucial to the understanding of the future realities of the political economy of Bangladesh.  




I am grateful to Sayema Khatun for providing me with the recordings of interviews, which she conducted as part of her field research in the area, some of which has been used in the writing of this paper.



Alexander, M. J. and Chandra Talpade Mohanty (eds) (1997) Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic futures, London: Routledge.

Bhattacharjee, A. (1997)  The Public/Private Mirage: Mapping Homes and Undomesticating Violence: Work in the South Asian Immigration Community in M.J. Alexander and Tmohanty (eds) op.cit.

Ghafur, Abdul,  et. al. (1999)  Final Report on Socio-economic and Environmental Impact of Shrimp Culture in South-western Bangladesh: An Integrated Approach, Dhaka:RDC.

Guhathakurta , M. and Suraiya Begum (1992) Bangladesher Nari: Andolon o Netritto (Women of Bangladesh: Movement and Leadership) in Jijnasa,  vol 13:4 Calcutta

Maria Mies (1982) The lace Makers of Narsapur: Indian Housewives Produce for the World Market, London: Zed Press

Mridha, Kanai Lal, (1998) Nirjatito Bhumihin o Shahid Zaheda Hotyar Kobita, in Saydia Gulrukh and Manosh Chowdhury (ed) Kortar Shongshar: Naribadi Rochona Shonkolon, Dhaka: Rupantor

Wallerstein, (1979) The Capitalist World Economy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.