Lectures 2010-2011

12th Lecture
Date: 29.12.2011
Topic: Bangladesh Genocide and the Quest for Justice
Speaker: Mofidul Hoque, Founder-Trustee and Member-Secretary of Liberation War Museum, Dhaka
Abstract: Bangladesh Genocide of 1971 was one of worst genocides of the post-WWII period. The atrocities committed by Pak Army and their local cohorts created a massive humanitarian crisis and attracted the attention of people all over the world. But international community, divided by the cold-war rivalry, could not take any step to address the issue of justice for the genocidal crimes. Gradually Bangladesh genocide became a forgotten genocide for the world community. The war-ravaged Bangladesh undertook its own initiative of justice by adopting the Collaborators Act and International Crimes (Tribunal) Act of 1973. But it could not initiate the process due to difficult national and international situation. The 195 Pakistani POW, accused of war crimes, had to be released from Indian camps with a tacit understanding that they will be tried in their home country. The collaborators Act was annulled by a Presidential Decree immediately after the brutal killing of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Denial of justice became the fate of the nation and thus begun the period of long impunity for the perpetrators. From the early-90’s, with the end of cold war and eruption of mass atrocities in former Yugoslavia and brutal acts of genocide in Rwanda the international community began the initiative of global justice with the formation of ICTY and ICTR. Gradually the world community organized itself to confront the issues of genocide and crimes against humanity, the Rome Statute for International Criminal Court (ICC) was formulated in 1998 and adopted in 2002. Different International Courts were established including the hybrid tribunal in Cambodia, known as ECCC. But Bangladesh genocide committed in 1971 remained outside the purview of ICC as it is bound by its statute not to address the retrospective events. The question was how Bangladesh can end the impunity and ensure the victims right to justice? Will it become another Armenian Genocide, denied and buried deep in the past while the scar remains hampering the process of peace and reconciliation? Or will it be like Cambodia when the 1975-79 crimes against humanity ultimately been addressed in the court of law with joint UN and local initiative.Now Bangladesh, on its own, has brought to an end the long impunity and moved from denial of justice to the process of justice which carries great significance both for the nation and the international community of nations. In this historic juncture it is necessary to have a deeper understanding of historical perspective and right of the nation to establish justice. Global justice process will be strengthened with the success of domestic tribunal for international crimes in Bangladesh. The paper will highlight the legal position of Bangladesh Tribunal and shed light on observations of various international organizations. It is important to ensure fair trial process keeping in mind the right of the victims and importance of ensuring justice after a delay of 40 years.

Discussion Moot 1
Date: 27.11.2011
Topic: Middle East in Turmoil
Speakers: Shakhawat Hossain Saikat, MSS Student Department of International Relations, University of Chittagong;
Zulker Naim, BSS Student, Department of International Relations, University of Chittagong;
Monzima Haque, MSS Student, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka;
Md. Rezwanul Haque Masud, BSS Student, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka
Abstract: During the summers of 2010 and 2011, I conducted exploratory research in Bangladesh on the relationship between an Islamic finance industry that has rapidly expanded from small and uncertain beginnings, and the increasing public social, political, and economic prominence of Islam in urban and rural Bangladesh. Through conversations at the Dhaka headquarters of the Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) and with interlocutors at several other Islamic economic and political institutions, I have sought to understand how Islamic finance might represent the public institutionalization of Islam, and whether absorption into such institutions produces religious subjects. Fieldwork conducted in a semi-rural, multireligious town in Cox's Bazar District focused upon IBBL’s Islamic microinvestment program as a lens for exploring how Islamic finance draws into question the notions of “Islam” and “finance” operational in Bangladeshi Islamic finance. By offering a collection of ethnographic moments with Bangladeshi Islamic finance professionals and Islamic microinvestment clients and field officers, I introduce questions regarding the place of Islamic finance and microinvestment within broader conversations relating to development, social justice, and the potential and limitations of capitalism.

11th Lecture
Date: 27.10.2011
Topic: Limiting The Limitations Within The Right To Information Process
Speaker: Ambassador (Rtd) Muhammad Zamir, Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commission

10th Lecture
Date: 25.9.2011
Topic: Globalization and Bangladesh-US Relations
Speaker: Dr. Delwar hossain, Professor and chair, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka

9th Lecture
Date: 24.8.2011
Topic: Islamic Finance and Micro-investment in Bangladesh: Theory, Practice, Aspiration
Speaker: Ms. Bridget Kustin, Doctoral Student of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, USA & the AIBS Fellow
Abstract: During the summers of 2010 and 2011, I conducted exploratory research in Bangladesh on the relationship between an Islamic finance industry that has rapidly expanded from small and uncertain beginnings, and the increasing public social, political, and economic prominence of Islam in urban and rural Bangladesh. Through conversations at the Dhaka headquarters of the Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) and with interlocutors at several other Islamic economic and political institutions, I have sought to understand how Islamic finance might represent the public institutionalization of Islam, and whether absorption into such institutions produces religious subjects. Fieldwork conducted in a semi-rural, multireligious town in Cox's Bazar District focused upon IBBL’s Islamic microinvestment program as a lens for exploring how Islamic finance draws into question the notions of “Islam” and “finance” operational in Bangladeshi Islamic finance. By offering a collection of ethnographic moments with Bangladeshi Islamic finance professionals and Islamic microinvestment clients and field officers, I introduce questions regarding the place of Islamic finance and microinvestment within broader conversations relating to development, social justice, and the potential and limitations of capitalism.

International Conference
Date: 18.7.2011
Topic: Water, Waves, and Weather: Climate Change and the Future of South Asia
Topic: The conference was sponsored by American Overseas Research Centers (American Institute of Bangladesh Studies, American Institute of Indian Studies, American Institute of Pakistan Studies, American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies) with support from DOS/ECA. The conference was a huge success—more than 100 people attended with papers from Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh. Program

8th Lecture
Date: 30.6.2011
Topic: Access to justice for women and children who are victims of violent crime in Bangladesh
Speaker: Ms. Heather Goldsmith, Adjunct Professor, Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, USA
Abstract: The Government of Bangladesh, recognizing the crucial role access to justice plays in combating pervasive violence against women and children, enacted the Anti-Women and Child Oppression Act in 2000.  The Act establishes special tribunals with exclusive jurisdiction over all cases brought under it in each of Bangladesh’s sixty-four districts.  The punishments are formidable, including life imprisonment for rape or attack with a corrosive substance, death can be sentenced if the victim dies.  All of the offences are non-compoundable, meaning that the parties should not compromise a case after it has been filed.   For the past five months I have been researching the role the special tribunals play in enabling access to justice through observing trials and interviewing judges, public prosecutors, defense lawyers, NGO lawyers, petitioners, the accused, and victims.   My initial findings indicate that at least 45% of the parties settle the cases through an out of court settlement.  It is even common for a judge or public prosecutor to strongly encourage a woman or girl to arrange a financial settlement in lieu of proceeding with the case, especially if she is destitute.  This practice fills many essential social services, such as providing financial assistance to impoverished victims and reducing the backlog in overburdened courts.  Unfortunately, it also has many negative consequence, including compelling some women to return to abusive situations, increasing men’s vulnerability to extortion through false accusations, widening the equality divide between the rich and poor, and eroding the deterrent power of the Act.   These negative consequences could be greatly reduced through access to social services, human rights based mediation, and free legal representation.

7th Lecture
Date: 9.5.2011
Topic: Art, Symbol and Technology of the Indus Civilization
Speaker: Dr. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Professor in Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA
Abstract: This illustrated lecture will present an overview of the seals, sculpture, ornaments and technologies of the Indus Valley Civilization in Pakistan and western India. A special focus will be on the recent discoveries at the site of Harappa, Pakistan which have provided new evidence on the origins of writing and urbanism in the Indus Valley. Other sites with important new discoveries include Mehrgarh and Nausharo, Pakistan and Dholavira, Farmana and Gola Dhoro, India. New discoveries on the development of writing, seals, and the use of standardized stone weights will be presented along with a discussion on Indus art, symbol and technology as well as the enigmatic undeciphered Indus script. Throughout the presentation the important contributions of the Indus culture to later civilizations in South Asia and other world regions will be highlighted.

6th Lecture
Date: 17.4.2011
Topic: Religiosity And Political Affinity: Reading Texture Into An Assumed Linearity
Speaker: Dr. Samia Huq, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics and Social Sciences (ESS) and BDI, BRAC University

CAORC/AIBS Conference with support from BRAC Development Institute, Dhaka
Date: 1.4.2011
Topic: Engaging with East Pakistan-Bangladesh 1971: Building a field of scholarship and dialogue
Speaker: Professor Yasmin Saikia, Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict; Professor of History, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University, USA Report

5th Lecture
Date: 15.03.2011
Topic: The Concept of Justice in Democracy
Speaker: Professor Dr. Zillur R. Khan, Emeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, USA
Summary: AIBS has had its first lecture where a scholar from a foreign university gave a talk. Bangladesh eventually is going through a turbulent phase, where constitutional debates are taking place on the concept of democracy and secularism. Dr. Zillur’s lecture was refreshing since he introduced the idea of justice for the society in it totality within a democratic framework. He suggested that through a system of proportional representation and a bicameral parliament, democracy could do away with its many exclusions.

Skill Development Workshop 1
Date: 27.02.2011 & 28.02.2011
Topic: Research Proposal Writing
Resource Person: Dr. Salahuddin M. Aminuzzaman, Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka
Summary: Students competing for admission into higher educational institutions in the USA, UK and other North American schools often lose out because of their lack of expertise in proposal writing. The AIBS organized a 2 days workshop on proposal writing skills for graduate and post-graduate students of Dhaka University. It enabled them to better understand methodology of writing proposals and placing their arguments in a convincing manner.

4th Lecture
Date: 29.01.2011
Topic: Women in Rabindranath Tagore’s Short Stories: Some Reflections
Speaker: Dr. Sonia Nishat Amin, Professor, Department of History, University of Dhaka
Summary: India and Bangladesh are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. AIBS takes pride that it organized the first lecture in Bangladesh in the context. The speaker chose three different women characters from the short stories of Tagore and spoke of the transformations that women went through in colonial Bengal. It was a special pleasure for AIBS to have Dr. Sonia N. Amin as a speaker since she is also a former AIBS fellow.

3rd Lecture
Date: 27.10.2010
Topic: Vested Property Issues and Religious Minorities in Bangladesh
Speaker: Ajoy Das Gupta, Associate Editor, The Daily Samakal
Summary: The speaker made a distinction between Sufis and Sufism. The point being Bengal always had a tradition of eclecticism and tolerance, where religion- as the quest for truth- intertwined with politics. The need of the day is to go back to the culture of tolerance. This discourse is critical in the present context of Bangladesh politics as the state is struggling with the growth of religious extremism on the one hand and the thrust of a significant section of civil society and people in general to move towards a secular society and state.

2nd Lecture
Date: 23.09.2010
Topic: Religion and Politics
Speaker: Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka
Summary: The speaker made a distinction between Sufis and Sufism. The point being Bengal always had a tradition of eclecticism and tolerance, where religion- as the quest for truth- intertwined with politics. The need of the day is to go back to the culture of tolerance. This discourse is critical in the present context of Bangladesh politics as the state is struggling with the growth of religious extremism on the one hand and the thrust of a significant section of civil society and people in general to move towards a secular society and state.

1st Lecture
Date: 28.08.2010
Topic: It Is the Image That Matters: Representations of Women in Bangladesh Cultural History
Speaker: Firdous Azim, Chair, Department of English, BRAC University
Summary: The lecture proposed to look at two iconic images of women in Bangladesh. First, the well-known figure of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, which has been used as a representative of the negotiation between modernity and tradition that marked the early decades of the twentieth century. As Bengal debated its identity, veering between being Bengali and Muslim, this figure came to bear for the Bengali woman what the transition to modernity and independent nationhood meant. This image was juxtaposed against another iconic image created during the 1971 War of liberation. This represents woman as militant, and speaks of a militant route to liberation. These two images, read in tandem, delineate the very different expectations that independence struggles have of women. The lecture also tried to see how women veer between these different terrains, and end with some contemporary images of women – which stresses on variety and hence the difficulty of creating of easily definable cultural positions. The discourse is important in the context of the debates surrounding women’s empowerment and the very recent politics around the proposed National Women Policy.

AIBS Seminars 1991–2001