chapter  1
20 Pages

Political culture in contemporary Bangladesh: Histories, ruptures and contradictions


This chapter offers a broad overview of Bangladeshi politics as it has evolved since independence, when Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971. Conventional accounts of the country’s politics tend to take regime histories as their point of departure. Rather than provide a straightforward historical narrative, in this chapter I map various institutional and cultural transformations that have shaped the polity over the years. Two questions broadly structure the analysis. First, how do we understand contemporary political culture, in which extreme partisanship, violent confrontation and unpredictability are the norm, despite the formal trappings of democracy having been in place for over a decade? Second, what socio-economic forces and/or political dynamics have enabled the emergence of popular political ideologies that fuse religion with politics? Keeping these two questions in mind, I identify key trends, themes and sites of contention.