Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Livelihood Strategies of Ethnic Minorities of Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh: An Ethnographic Study on the Khumi

Nasir Uddin
(Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies [ASAFAS], Kyoto Universoty)
The Khumi, living in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, have generated distinctive livelihood strategies -the way they lead and maintain their course of life to survive -utilizing the space and resources, they possess in natural conditions of CHT. Besides traditional and historical engagement in Jhum Chash (Swidden Cultivation) for hundreds of years, the Khumi have recently invented the systems of Bagan (gardening), Khamar (farming), livestock rearing, and fish-cultivation to cope with the growing demand of essentials in everyday life. Bagan usually includes the cultivation of various kinds of fruit-trees, such as mango, orange, banana, jackfruit, guava, papaya, and lemon. The products of Bagan meet not only the communities' needs but also provide considerable surplus for export to market, which brings a little comfort to their life. Khamar includes production of different kinds of spices and vegetables, which cover their everyday needs. To some extent, Khamar-goods are also sold at market, providing money to facilitate their daily lives. The Khumi tend to keep various livestock -cows, pigs, hens, goats and dogs -in every house. These are essential to maintaining their every convention and ritual as well as for religious festivals, because presenting hens, slaughtering cows and sacrificing pigs are the common means of performing Khumi rituals and religious festivals. Previously, they had few livestock and they had to depend on other communities in times of wants. Now, they have their own. Most remarkably, the Khumi have started cultivating fish in Jhiri, a small lake of run-off from the hill, to supplement their daily meals. Previously they couldn‘t include fish in their meals for sensible reasons: they reside in a remote area of the CHT, and fish used to rot in the two days it can take for the Khumi to travel from Bazar (the market place) back to their villages. That‘s why fish was completely absent in Khumi daily meal.
Inventing these new sorts of livelihood strategies along with traditional Jhum Chash, the Khumi people are in the process of transformation in their social settings and cultural context. In the course of bringing their Bagan-goods and Khamar-goods to market regularly, they have gradually been connecting with the town and urban communities over recent years, which plays a huge role in transforming their social and cultural institutions. The research, being undertaked in Kyoto University, tries to understand not only the mechanism of Khumi livelihood strategies, but also to more deeply discern how these strategies are influencing the social network of Khumi life and its social & cultural setting in remote areas of CHT.
(The report was published in ASAFAS website in 2006). URL: http://areainfo.asafas.kyoto-u.ac.jp/english/activities/fsta/18_nasir/root.html)

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Social and Cultural Changes Among the Ethnic Minorities of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh: An Ethnographic Study on the Khumi

Nasir Uddin
(Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies [ASAFAS], Kyoto University)

The purpose of this dissertation is mainly to compose an ethnography of the Khumi, a peripheral ethnic minority group of the CHT, covering an ethnographic investigation and comprehensive understanding to reveal the state of social and cultural changes among the ethnic minorities of the CHT in Bangladesh.

The result of the present fieldwork can be explored in many ways. In fact, I intended to verify the existing epistemology regarding Khumi life and livings as well as their social and cultural entity. However, my principal objective was to observe social and cultural changes among the ethnic minorities of the CHT, specifically among the Khumi. During my fieldwork, I noticed that remarkable changes have been taking place in terms of social and cultural organizations among the Khumi, due mainly to the invention of a new religion, Krama, the establishment of connections with the marketplace and the dissemination of education. Engagement in the new religious movement has led the Khumi to change their rituals that have been maintained for centuries from generation to generations. This sort of change has strongly influenced their social and cultural organizations. In addition, jhum cultivation and gardening, their only means of livelihood, is no longer a subsistence economy as people have already become involved in the market economy. They are increasingly gaining profits and putting their products on the market as commodities. They are earning cash and buying some essentials and comfortable household goods, enabling them to change their way of life in the natural setting. Besides, through contacts with towns, and with Bengali, the Khumi have gradually changed their costumes, methods of trade and social manners. Another important factor that is meaningful in this changing trend is the expansion of education. The Khumi are becoming more educated, and they are getting involved in NGOs and educational program of UNICEF. They are bringing modern devices such as TVs into Khumi villages in remote areas. The intervention of modern equipment is bringing the Khumi and their life to a new stage. It is strongly influencing people's worldviews, level of interpretation of social events and the meaning of their existence in the regular course of their lives. The present fieldwork has made these kinds of very significant findings about social and cultural changes among the Khumi, and they are indicative of the changing pattern and tendency among ethnic minorities of the CHT in Bangladesh.

(The report was published in ASAFAS website in 2005) URL:http://areainfo.asafas.kyoto-u.ac.jp/english/activities/fsta/17_uddin/root.html