Cattle, Guns, and Time at the India-Bangladesh Border

Science Center 103

Open to the public

/ Wednesday


Cattle traders and herders, who transport cattle across the India-Bangladesh border, contribute to an illicit economy estimated at U.S. $500 million annually. India’s prohibitions on cattle and beef export for religious reasons and Bangladesh’s high demand for beef and leather generate risky border-crossings amidst large-scale shootings aimed at cattle transporters. Contraband cattle traffic confers meaning to time. It fosters temporal interdependence and inequities. This paper explores the tapestry of time in the region’s shifting border marshlands. It reads cattle time in conjunction with India’s newly constructed border fence and rapidly altering political realities. In this talk, Dr. Malini Sur situates time as a palpable border force, and shows how time’s life-giving and coercive energies operate in alliance with cattle cycles in the India-Bangladesh borderland to animate the promise of employment and prosperity as well as to produce hunger and loss.

Malini Sur, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, teaches anthropology at Western Sydney University. Her research and teaching addresses three lines of inquiry: agrarian borders, urban space and environment. The first examines fences, transnational flows, and citizenship. The second explores the relationship that mobility has to urban space, specifically with regard to bicycling and construction sites across Asian cities. Finally, she examines the afterlives of natural disasters, air pollution, and climate change. As an anthropologist, she researches these themes historically and with keen attention to visual representation. She has conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh and India, and with South Asian asylum seekers in Belgium.