In this paper, I argue that to truly understand the complexity and “high prevalence” of acid violence against women in Bangladesh, we must pay attention to the confluence of political, economic and historical forces that make certain social groups more vulnerable to such extreme violence and suffering. By tracing the life history narratives of survivors of gender-based violence, I hope to shed light that acid throwing—a form of gendered violence—has to be understood beyond a “culturalist” framework, which explains this phenomenon as a product of harmful patriarchal cultural practices, seemingly more prevalent in certain South Asian cultures. Rather, I argue, acid violence has to be understood within a broader “structural inequality” framework, which maps the vulnerability of the victims onto their life trajectory shaped by complex forces of globalization, neoliberal development, patriarchy and poverty. Focusing on the systemic oppressions faced by vulnerable social groups whether embedded in family, kin and community structures or the global capitalist system, I argue that mapping a trajectory of suffering can aid in imagining a more nuanced and humane transnational analytic and response with regards to violence against women.

Author Biography

Elora Halim Chowdhury is an Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research and teaching interests include transnational feminisms, gender and development, violence and human rights advocacy in South Asia. She is the author of Transnationalism Reversed: Women Organizing Against Gendered Violence in Bangladesh (SUNY Press, 2011), which was awarded the Gloria E. Anzaldua book prize by the National Women’s Studies Association in 2012. She has published widely in peer-reviewed journals and edited anthologies. Her current scholarship focuses on dissident cross-border feminist alliances, friendships, and solidarity projects.