'Ambiguous positionalities: Bangladeshi migrant men in The Hague', by Mohammad Ibrahim Khalad

ISS Working Paper No. 625

ISS MA Research Paper Award winner for the academic year 2015-2016

Mohammad Ibrahim Khalad is one of the ISS MA Research Paper Award winners for the academic year 2015-2016.

“This thesis offers a relevant topic, with a very balanced and sophisticated analysis. The writing style of this RP is beautiful and almost poetic, personal yet academic. Most thesis adopt one academic perspective. By contrast, this thesis empirically applies various academic perspectives and shows how these at times conflict, complicate or strengthen each other! All in all, it is a very balanced story, showing the complexities and dynamics of social life in a clear way. The thesis is also very topical: it refers to changed perception to muslims after 9/11 and the topical issue of migration.”
(as formulated by the evaluation committee consisting of Dr. Helen Hintjens, Dr. Rosalba Icaza from ISS, and Dr. Jan Fransen from IHS).

Author's abstract

In the context of post 9/11, Muslim migrant men in the Europe come under scrutiny where their masculinity is perceived as problematic. They are seen as patriarchal, traditional and conservative within their family, and as potential political/terrorist threat for the society. With this context in mind, this research wishes to understand how Bangladeshi migrant men in The Hague, Netherlands, experience process of marginalisation resulting from the post 9/11 perceptions.

I have argued that the process of marginalisation for Bangladeshi migrant men in The Hague is embedded in the intersection of gender, race, colour, class, religion and ethnicity. However, these intersections are uneven, complex and dynamic. Power relations and identities that give them advantage is one context, make them vulnerable in another context. Their darker skin colour and South Asian facial features, for example, save them from direct Islamophobia. Their low-class position protects them from direct competition with white Dutch men. However, once their religious affiliations are disclosed, they are shunned by Dutch neighbours, and their socio-economic position brings them in competition with other migrants.  

I have focused on three social spheres – the workplace, the family and the wider Dutch society – to understand positionality of Bangladeshi migrant men in relation to other migrant communities as well as white Dutch men. The results of my research show an ambiguous and complex scenario where Bangladeshi migrant men take part in some racist discourses of Dutch society while rejecting others, create negative stereotypes of other migrant communities while claiming some similarities with them, question family dedication of other Muslim communities while going to their mosque. Furthermore, Bangladeshi migrant men negotiate their marginalised masculinity by stressing their breadwinner role, good manners and family dedication, and judge themselves better family men than other migrant and white Dutch men.
At the same time, Bangladeshi migrant men live in a ‘Bangladesh bubble’ where their life is organised around links and relationships with people from Bangladesh, and with other Bangladeshi migrants. While this means a (self)isolation from Dutch society, this bubble allows them to ignore hegemonic notions and practices of white Dutch masculinity in Netherlands, and creates their own ideals of masculinity. Ultimately, they stood out as ideal men, better than white Dutch and other migrants.
This showed us that the process of marginalisation is context specific. Men from different position face and negotiate marginalisation differently.

Bangladeshi migrant men, masculinity, Islamophobia, colonial racial discourse, intersectionality, other migrant communities, white Dutch.

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About the author

Mohammad Ibrahim Khalad is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. Previously, he worked at the research department of the UNAIDS (The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS) and Nagorik Uddyog. He recently completed his second Master from the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam, with a research paper distinction. His research interest includes migration and masculinities, intersectionality and Islamophobic discourse, child rights, and environmental justice.