In This Review

The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics
The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Meghna Guhathakurta and Willem van Schendel
Duke University Press Books, 2013, 568 pp

Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world and the origin of a large diaspora in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere. But the country is poorly understood in the West. Linked to India by language and to Pakistan by religion, Bangladesh has struggled to define an identity different from its neighbors’ that embraces its own linguistic, religious, ethnic, and ideological diversity. The country has gone through more than its rightful share of trauma: colonialism, partition from India, a war for independence against a brutal Pakistani army, internal rebellions by minority tribes, poverty, flooding, and factory disasters. Yet a pluralistic, proud, and self-aware culture has emerged; the economy is growing; feminism contends with fundamentalism; and periods of party politics alternate with those of military rule. This revelatory volume brings alive Bangladesh’s tormented history and vibrant culture through a selection of excerpts and illustrations from works of history, journalism, literature, and visual art.