Environmental change and migration in an agrarian society: The case of coastal Bangladesh

In recent years, agrarian communities in coastal Bangladesh have experienced frequent and intense climatic hazards. Scholarship on environmental migration argues that villagers often respond to such hazards by migrating. In this scholarship, those who stay put in disaster-prone areas are described as “trapped” because they lack the necessary resources to move. Against this backdrop, the thesis asks why some people move but others do not when they experience devastating climatic hazards. In particular, the thesis interrogates how land tenure and agrarian social identity shape migration and non-migration trajectories across differently positioned households. In this pre-submission seminar, I present the key findings and arguments of my PhD thesis. Drawing on ethnography and survey data, my thesis demonstrates that, contrary to our theoretical expectations, rich and middle-class families, who have greater resources at their disposal, tend to stay put in the village amidst deteriorating environmental conditions whilst poor and landless families, who lack or have limited access to rural land, undertake temporary or seasonal migration to cope with climatic hazards. It further shows that people’s (im)mobility choices are shaped by negotiations and interactions between everyday access to basic provisioning and housing, social status, and transformations in the agrarian economy associated with global capitalism.

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