- A Politics of Nudity: Photographs of the 'Naked Mru' of Bangladesh
- Modern Asian Studies
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- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This article uses photographs to explore the meanings of nudity in a district of Bangladesh. Throughout the colonial and postcolonial periods, photography was a major tool here in the framing of a confrontation between local and external cultural styles. In this confrontation, nudity was used as a visual marker of specific, but contradictory, local characteristics. It stood variously for primitivity,
underdevelopment, indecency and indigeneity. In the dominant discourses, one group in particular, the Mru, was singled out to represent these characteristics.
Photographs of the Mru reveal a politics of nudity which is illustrated here by exploring three themes: enforced authenticity, enforced decency, and folklorization. The article links these photographs with wider discussions about romantic views of the exotic, about Orientalist representations—not just by Northerners but also by Southern nationalist elites and post-colonial intellectuals—, about development, and about minority rights. It is argued that the case of this district, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, is particularly instructive because here a politics of nudity can be seen to have underpinned
deeply intrusive policies of development, oppression, expulsion and war.
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