The Newsletter 90 Autumn 2021

IIAS Fellow in the spotlight: Mohammad Tareq Hasan

Mohammad Tareq Hasan

IIAS Research Cluster: Global Asia 1 April 2021 – 31 Jan 2022

Home Institute: Department of Anthropology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

An Open Time at IIAS

My fellowship at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) started amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But fortunately, many preventive measures have been gradually lifted since I arrived in Leiden. In a way, this allowed me to settle into the new rhythm, and my life in Leiden started at a comfortable pace.

At IIAS, I am primarily writing a monograph that ethnographically explores an expanding neoliberal context in Bangladesh, where a rapidly growing Ready-made Garment (RMG) sector and an expansion of industrial work opportunities combined to produce a shift in the labour regime from subsistence to wages. The monograph that I am preparing presents a situation where corporate international trade agreements, a new neoliberal state regime, and a growing textile market have enabled establishing a new class of Muslim female workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Based on over 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a garment factory and among the garment workers of Dhaka, this monograph sets out to represent why people in this system do the things they do, imagining the industrial scene in Dhaka as a total system and analysing how this was historically constituted, transformed, maintained, and reproduced over time.

Leiden University’s incredibly vast library resources are a treasure in this writing process. I have found a few ethnographies on pre- and post-independent Bangladesh that I did not find in original prints in Dhaka. In addition, the Fellowship allows me to interact with people from diverse academic backgrounds through seminars, presentations/discussions, and writing groups. Contacts with other current and ex-fellows of IIAS have enriched my social and intellectual experience in the Netherlands. Adding to this further, the most welcoming IIAS staff have made my stay in Leiden a bit easier in every possible way.

In addition to the academic opportunities, experiencing Dutch culture and nature is a value in itself. On the weekends, weather permitting, I travel to other cities, which is a rewarding cultural experience. While the pandemic restricted movement across Europe to some extent in 2021, such restrictions  left me with an opportunity to explore the Netherlands a bit more. Nonetheless, I plan to visit some other European cities and take advantage of the Schengen Area in the coming months.

Like the other Dutch cities, Leiden is great to walk through or to explore by bike. Walking through the parks and by the canal every day refreshes my tired mind. A walk through Haarlemmerstraat, bookstores in Breestraat, and the many stalls at Leiden’s Street Market along the canal have been incredible. A stroopwafel (Dutch syrup waffle) from the stalls is a treat and gives a little more energy to walk a bit longer. In the evenings, Plantsoen, a city park along the canal, is the place where I can get some quiet time.

It has been a unique opportunity for me to be here at IIAS. I can term this Fellowship period as an ‘open time’ – nothing is expected of me other than doing what pleases me academically. IIAS is an ideal institution to host post-PhD scholars as it provides time and resources for publishing and building a career in academia. Having all the support, but nothing that can distract me from writing, has made my stay at IIAS an incredible experience. Overall, the IIAS Fellowship has offered a quiet time and stimulating intellectual environment to explore new ideas that will guide my entire academic journey in the future.