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Shattered Sacred, Broken Lives: Destruction and Reconstruction of Religious Sites in Ramu, Bangladesh

Priyadarshini, Aanmona (2023) Shattered Sacred, Broken Lives: Destruction and Reconstruction of Religious Sites in Ramu, Bangladesh. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This research examines how destruction and government-led tourist-centric reconstruction of Buddhists' religious spaces (bihars) have affected the religious practices and social relationships of Buddhist communities in a Muslim-majority country, Bangladesh. It reveals what relation violence against sacred sites bears to violence against the people who built, inhabited, or identified with that sacred space. In this dissertation, I have explored the processes of ‘ruination’ – destruction and reconstruction of the bihars – and examined the affective power of rubble that leaves enduring marks on the material environment of space and on the terrain of human bodies and minds. The research will contribute to understanding people's experiences with the rubble and uncover how social inequalities and religious marginalization are translated into spatial forms.
Analyzing the rubble of religious violence – tourists-centric reconstructed bihars, beheaded statues of Buddha, burnt sacred objects –I aim to destabilize the usual presumptions of spatial and temporal boundaries of violence in the destruction/reconstruction binary. The project is guided by questions about what is disrupted through the process of destruction, what space is reconstructed when the rubble of destruction is destroyed, and how the communities conceptualize and experience the rubble of destruction and reconstruction in their everyday life. The answers to these questions are rarely straightforward and force a reassessment of our common notion of destruction, reconstruction, and material culture.
This dissertation stands on three main arguments that establish dialogues with these questions. First, it asserts that the destruction of built structure and space not only disassembles the matters but also disintegrates the conditions of sociality – human bodies, spatial relations, and practices – that define a particular spatial node. Second, by questioning the widespread assumption of reconstruction as the medium for reconciliation, I argue that the commodification of sacred sites and discriminatory reconstruction projects often reinforce the destruction and transgress the delicate process of social healing. Third, rather than considering the rubble as a dead object, I consider them as affectively charged matter and examine the extent to which the rubble of violence becomes sedimented in the texture of contemporary geographies and the everyday life of the inhabitants in Ramu.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Priyadarshini, Aanmonaaap67@pitt.eduaap67
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairHayden, Robert M.rhayden@pitt.edurhayden
Committee CoChairAlter, Joseph S.jsalter@pitt.edujsalter
Committee MemberHanks, Bryan K.bkh5@pitt.edubkh5
Committee MemberLiu, Cuilancul3@pitt.educlu3
Date: 10 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 March 2023
Approval Date: 10 May 2023
Submission Date: 2 April 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 251
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Destruction of religious space, destructive reconstruction, tourist-centric reconstruction of sacred space, cultural heritage, abstract space, dissonant space, space of exception, rubble, afterlife, religioscape, antagonistic tolerance model.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2023 19:07
Last Modified: 10 May 2023 19:07


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