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Lamia Karim — Research Interests

Prof. Karim is currently engaged in the following three research projects.

Lamia Karim Field Photo

Prof. Karim with her research assistant on her project on Women of the Tabhligh Ja’maat in Bangladesh

a) Law, Religion, and Democracy: The Case of Bangladesh

The project analyzes the role of women belonging to a transnational pietist movement known as Tabligh Ja’maat. The research projected conducted over six months (Fall 2009-Winter 2010) examined the social and sexual regulation of women through their induction and participation in the Tabligh movement. The project findings are under analysis during Fall 2010 through Spring 2011.

The Tabligh movement is located around a central mosque leadership. Since the spread of globalization and media culture in the 1990s, the mosque leadership has brought women into the movement not as passive recipients but as female missionaries who recruit women into their growing movement. The project is a study of these social challenges that are changing roles of women, and also transforming the pietist movement into a political movement.

Lamia Karim Research Photo

A public performance by women of Ponchom Shur, a group of acid survivors from Bangladesh. This research is being conducted by Dr. Lamia Karim as part of the project "Voices Breaking Boundaries."

b) Voices Breaking Boundaries: Violence, Music and Acid Survivor Women

The second ongoing project is a cultural study of violence against women through the life histories of women who have been physically burned by sulphuric acid by men who had been spurned in their sexual overtures to these women. These acid survivors have formed a music group, Ponchom Shur (Fifth Note), to heal themselves through songs. Despite tremendous social adversities, these women continue with their education, employment, fall in love and marry, have families, and try to live normal lives. The project is a study of the human spirit, and the recognition that women are not simply victims, but creators of meaningful destinies.

c) The New Silk Road: Perspectives on the Asian Highway from Bangladesh

The third project is on the Asian Highway that China is building as a trade route through Asia. The project is jointly conducted with Dr. Mannan of Independent University of Bangladesh. The research focuses on the cultural-politics of the Asian Highway and its regional manifestations by taking the port-city of Chittagong in Bangladesh as an exemplar of globalization. The Asian Highway from Kunming province of China will pass through the politically volatile regions of North-east India, Myanmar and south-east Bangladesh to reach the deep-sea port in Chittagong. The Highway has been theorized as generating regional connectivity through an increase in trade that will bring the peripheral regions (Bangladesh, Myanmar and NE Indian provinces) into greater co-operation with the two Asian giants, India and China. Yet, the Highway is also a metaphor for new modes of communication, social identities, and dislocations in the populations living in these areas. Thus, it can be argued that the Highway will not necessarily lead to a disciplining of resistance, but instead, it may collapse existing separatist movements into alliances against the Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi states for regional autonomy, and change the borders of these peripheral states.

Dr. Karim will be presenting the preliminary findings on the Asian Highway project at the Social Science Research Council’s Inter-Asian Connections II Workshop, December 8-10, 2010, at Singapore National University.

Curriculum Vitae