Made in Bangladesh: The Romance of the New Woman
This chapter examines women’s oppression and emancipation in contemporary Bangladesh through the lens of literary and visual culture. Recent visual depictions of women’s participation in the apparel industry illustrate the emerging identities of the empowered woman—the object of neoliberal development policy—as well as structural inequalities that constrain their autonomy. An investigation of competing and contradictory notions of women’s subjectivity and agency in visual media representing women as emancipated subjects of neoliberalism or victimised objects of culture and patriarchy allows us to understand how these intersect with shifting notions of local/global patriarchies, corporate globalisation, feminist solidarity, and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh today. I illuminate the disjunctures between representations of the ‘new woman’ circulated through cultural and human rights advocacy narratives with women’s lived realities of oppression and struggle.
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