Camelia Begum Dewan

Postdoctoral Fellow - Department of Social Anthropology

Academic interests

Politics of Knowledge Production, environmental anthropology and political ecology, the anthropology of development, South Asia, gender, the anthropology of climate change, food studies, agriculture, aquaculture, rural livelihoods and human-nonhuman relations.

Background

Camelia is an environmental anthropologist focusing on the anthropology of development. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow on the Norwegian Research Council-funded project (Dis)Assembling the Life Cycle of Containerships where she examines the final stage of containerships through shipbreaking.

Bangladesh exhibits one of the largest and competitive shipbreaking industries in the world and her project seeks to deconstruct the current discourses surrounding the shipbreaking and recycling industries where Bangladeshi workers are cast as exploited victims. The study ethnographically explores the everyday lives of workers in the end-cycle of containerships - from those breaking the ships to those employed in re-rolling mills - to gain a greater understanding of how they negotiate opportunities and constraints in a context of structural precarity and un(der)employment. It engages with wider discussions of increasingly precarious forms of labour in the current economic system and examines how global capitalist interests in shipbreaking interact/co-exist with local modes of economic production and labour (recycling, national steel for construction) and look at the political, economic and social relations embedded in these interactions. This includes identifying the relations, tensions and commonalities between migrant shipbreaking workers, yard owners, re-rolling mills and local residents. Departing from the latest environmental ethnographies on ‘biosocial becomings’ (Ingold and Pálsson 2013), the study also explores how the precarious livelihoods of residents and labourers are entangled with the environment and the multiple species contained within its waters and soils that may have been affected by shipbreaking (fishing, cultivation, health). 

Prior to joining SAI, Camelia lectured in Environmental Anthropology and Political Ecology as well as Development studies at Stockholm University. She obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology and Environment from the University of London in 2017. Her doctoral work consisted of intercollegiate and interdisciplinary collaboration between the Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies (Birkbeck College) and the Department of Social Anthropology (SOAS). Her thesis was awarded the Royal Anthropological Institute's Sutasoma Award. 

Climate change is one of the key challenges of our time and large amounts of development aid are allocated towards adaptation in the Global South. Yet, to what extent do such projects address local needs and concerns? Camelia's upcoming book Misreading the Bengal Delta (University of Washington Press, Seattle) decolonizes development narratives of Bangladesh as a ‘climate change victim’. It combines long-term ethnographic fieldwork and environmental history to show that the same modernising interventions that have produced severe environmental effects since colonial times are now repackaged as climate adaptation solutions. For example, rather than mitigating against rising sea levels, permanent embankments (seawalls) silt up important waterways causing damaging drainage-related floods. Similarly, other ‘adaptation’ projects like saline aquaculture and high-yield agriculture threaten soil fertility, biodiversity, and livelihoods. Engaging with multiple perspectives, from Bangladeshi development professionals to rural farmers and landless women, Camelia Dewan demonstrates that Bangladesh’s current environmental crisis goes beyond global warming, extending to coastal vulnerabilities that are entwined with underemployment, debt, and lack of universal public healthcare.

This book informs broader global issues by analysing how development actors’ use of climate change as a buzzword to attract donor funding fails to address the actual needs of the communities they intend to help, ultimately exacerbating climatic risks and structural inequalities.

Publications

Dewan, Camelia (2021) Misreading Climate Change: How Development Simplifications have failed environment and society in coastal Bangladesh, University of Washington Press: Seattle, USA. Available for pre-order: https://www.amazon.com/Misreading-Bengal-Delta-Development-Coastal-Bangladesh/dp/029574961X

Dewan, Camelia (2021) ‘Embanking the Sundarbans: The Obfuscating Discourse of Climate Change’ in P. Sillitoe (ed) Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change, Berghahn Books: London, UK.

Dewan, Camelia (2021) "Covid-19, Nordic trust and collective denial: Sweden and Norway compared" Corona Times Blog. https://www.coronatimes.net/covid-19-nordic-trust-collective-denial-sweden-norway/

Dewan, Camelia (2020) "'Climate Change as a Spice': Brokering Environmental Knowledge in Bangladesh's development industry". Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology. 

Dewan, Camelia (2020). "Living with toxic development: Shipbreaking in the industrializing zone of Sitakunda, Bangladesh." Anthropology Today.  ISSN 0268-540X.  6(4) . doi: 10.1111/1467-8322.12617

Dewan, Camelia (2019) ‘Impure Foods: Entanglements of Soil, Food and Human Health in Bangladesh’ Gastronomica 19(1).

Dewan, Camelia, Aditi Mukherji, and Marie-Charlotte Buisson (2015) ‘Evolution of Water Management in Coastal Bangladesh: From Temporary Earthen Embankments to Depoliticized Community-Managed Polders’. Water International 40 (3): 401–16.

Dewan, Camelia, Marie-Charlotte Buisson, and Aditi Mukherji (2014) ‘The Imposition of Participation? The Case of Participatory Water Management in Coastal Bangladesh’ in Humphreys, E., T.P. Tuong, M-C. Buisson, I. Pkinskis and M. Phillips (eds) Revitalizing the Ganges Coastal Zone: Turning Science into Policy and Practices: Conference Proceedings. Colombo, Sri Lanka: CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food.

Dewan, Camelia, Marie-Charlotte Buisson, and Aditi Mukherji (2014) ‘The Imposition of Participation? The Case of Participatory Water Management in Coastal Bangladesh’. Water Alternatives 7 (2): 342–66.

Anger, J, Kiwanga, F and C. Dewan (2013) ‘Mid-term Review of the Institutional Strengthening Support to the Association of Local Authorities of Tanzania’, Sida Decentralised Evaluation 2013:4, Sida: Stockholm.

Tropp H. and C. Dewan (2012) “Changing International Perceptions of Public–Private Partnerships in Water Services” in Gunawansa and Bhullar (eds) Water Governance: An Evaluation of Alternative Architectures, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited: Cheltenham, UK.

Awards

  • The Royal Anthropological Institute’s Sutasoma award

 

Tags: Environmental Anthropology, Development, Climate change, Food, rural transformations, maritime, South Asia, Bangladesh, Political ecology

Publications

Environmental Anthropology, Development, climate change, food, rural transformations, maritime, South Asia, Bangladesh, Political ecology, 

  • Dewan, Camelia (2021). Misreading the Bengal Delta: Climate Change, Development, and Livelihoods in coastal Bangladesh. University of Washington Press.  ISBN 029574961X.  240 s.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2021). Covid-19, Nordic trust and collective denial: Sweden and Norway compared. Show summary
  • Dewan, Camelia (2020). Living with Toxic Development: Shipbreaking in the industrialising zone of Sitakunda, Bangladesh.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2020). ‘Living with Toxic Development: Shipbreaking in the industrialising zone of Sitakunda, Bangladesh’.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2020). 'Living with Toxic Development: Shipbreaking in the industrialising zone of Sitakunda, Bangladesh’.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2020). MV18. Toxic flows: Scales, spaces and lived experiences of toxicity on bodies and the environment..
  • Dewan, Camelia (2020). ‘Nature-based solutions: Implementation in the GBM delta, challenges and way forward’ Invited as panellist on the international meeting on NBS for Ganges delta management..
  • Dewan, Camelia (2020). Zoom Workshop ´Toxic flows: Scales, spaces and lived experiences of toxicity on bodies and the environment.’.
  • Dewan, Camelia & Nustad, Knut Gunnar (2020). Contested Waters and Fluid Properties in Capitalist Natures..
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Caring for Dying Rivers: Stories of hope and survival in an embanked floodplain of coastal Bangladesh’.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Climate Change as a ‘Spice’: Brokering Environmental Knowledge in Bangladeshi Development Industry.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Climate Change as a ‘Spice’: Brokering Environmental Knowledge in Bangladeshi Development aid projects.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Climate Change as a ‘Spice’: Brokering Environmental Knowledge in the Bangladeshi Development Industry.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Climate Change as a ‘Spice’: Performing ignorance in the translation of development projects in coastal Bangladesh (working title).
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Cultivating Development: Misreading Climate Change.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Embanking the Sundarbans: The Obfuscating Discourse of Climate Change.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Klimatflyktingar i Bangladesh - redan en realitet?.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Precarious Livelihoods: Labour & Environment in the Shipbreaking Beaches of Chittagong.
  • Dewan, Camelia (2019). Precarious Livelihoods: Labour and Environment on the Shipbreaking Beaches of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Published Nov. 3, 2018 9:30 AM - Last modified June 14, 2021 3:33 PM