University of Tasmania
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The role of cultural expression, practice, and transmission among the Rakhine of Southwestern Coastal Bangladesh

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posted on 2023-05-28, 00:10 authored by Poon, H L-Y
Central to the discourse surrounding cultural preservation and transmission is the notion that culture provides meaning and identity for groups of people (Taylor, DM & Usborne 2010). However, in developing contexts, the transmission or mediation of culture may be interrupted by subsistence brought about by poverty or trauma in ways that affect and have an impact upon learning, meaning, identity, and resilience (Feuerstein, Feuerstein & Falik 2010, Taylor, 2010 #310). This study explores the significance of cultural practices, such as weaving, food consumption, festivals, language, and religion, for Rakhine communities living in Bangladesh. Specifically, the study considers how these practices can foster empowerment, participation, and resilience in the face of poverty and marginalisation. Immersive field trips in 2016 and 2017 involved collecting data relating to these cultural practices and participant views on their significance. That work included arts-based workshops, semistructured interviews, participant observation, and photography. Precarity and intersectionality were deployed as conceptual and analytical frameworks by which to understand the effects of poverty and marginalisation for the Rakhine. My analysis establishes that, first, these are useful lenses through which to explore the power dynamics and the limitations of traditional development work assumptions about poverty; second, that cultural preservation and transmission are important to cultural identity, meaning, and resilience; and a third insight relates to the effect of poverty and marginalisation on cultural transmission. For example, as shown by the stories told by participants, weaving is a way to make a living and to interact, share experiences, establish a collective identity, and maintain traditional practices. Other cultural practices such as eating traditional foods, speaking Rakhine, being Buddhist, and participating in cultural festivals serve those involved in similar ways. Together these forms of cultural practices are significant for sustaining empowerment, participation, and resilience for a community of people.


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