Collaborative Research Project: Connecting KSU to Bangladesh
In Fall, 2017, KSU Geography Professor Jason Rhodes, along with students in his Geography of Clothing class, launched a collaborative research project with Sociology Professor Shahidur Rahman and undergraduate students at Brac University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This research is funded through a grant from the journal Human Geography.
Bangladesh is one of the leading garment exporting countries in the world, and we wanted to hear directly from those who make our clothes about the conditions that they are working in, as well as the environmental impact of clothing production. We also wanted to hear about efforts on the ground in Bangladesh to improve working conditions and environmental protections in the garment industry.
We thus began a close collaboration with Brac University undergraduate students Fatimah
Akhtar and Zareef Karim, who began conducting a series of interviews with garment
workers in Dhaka. Our Geography of Clothing class communicated with them via Skype
sessions and an online discussion forum to help plan interviews and suggest discussion
questions as they conducted their interviews. At first it was not easy for Fatimah
and Zareef to arrange interviews with garment workers, or at least interviews in which
workers felt comfortable speaking frankly about conditions in their workplaces. This
was because the first interviews were arranged by factory managers themselves, and
took place on the factory premises. It was actually KSU student Mahnoor Rattani who
found an article about the AWAJ Foundation, a organization with over 40,000 members
that works to advance the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh. We suggested that
Fatimah and Zareef get in touch with AWAJ, and the result was a series of interviews
with workers who were eager to tell their stories. One of these interviews is included
Geography of Clothing students setting up research display in Social Sciences Atrium, November, 2017
Geography of Clothing research display in Social Sciences Atrium, Nov. – Dec, 2017
This semester, several students from the Geography of Clothing class – Christopher Coley, Amy Holmes, Ashley Lecroy, Andrew Pendleton, Britt Pickering, Kamran Sadiq, and Nnenna Uduh – are continuing their work on this project. While Fatimah and Zareef turn their attention to interviews which shed light on the environmental impact of Bangladesh’s garment industry, KSU students are organizing sustainable fashion projects on our campus, including a clothing recycling project, clothes swaps, and an effort to encourage the university to adopt an ethical sourcing policy for clothes bearing the KSU logo. The clothes swaps will function as fundraisers for the AWAJ Foundation, so that KSU students are given an alternative to the consumption of “fast fashion” that is not only sustainable, but lends assistance to efforts to improve working conditions in places where clothing is made. We are capturing video documentation of these efforts, and plan to edit the footage of Fatimah and Zareef’s interviews in Bangladesh, and our efforts to promote ethical, sustainable fashion here at KSU, into a documentary film to be shown on the campuses of both Brac University and KSU later this year.
Geography student Ashley Lecroy presenting her Geography of Clothing research at the Next South Sustainability Conference
We are excited about the progress of this project, and welcome the involvement of other members of the KSU community.
For more information, or to get involved, please contact Jason Rhodes at email@example.com. Thank you!