The 1971 Genocide in Bangladesh: A Geospatial Approach

Authors: Siddharth Chandra*, Michigan State University, Soma Chaudhuri, Michigan State University, Kyle Evered, Michigan State University
Topics: Historical Geography, Asia, Political Geography
Keywords: Political geography, historical geography, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Asia, population census, GIS, genocide, violence, Cold War
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 16
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper employs a geospatial framework to examine the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh that accompanied the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, resulting in hundreds of thousands of lost lives. Occurring over a short span of nine months (March-December), this genocide was one of the most devastating episodes of mass killing in the 20th century. We identify human and natural factors that explain spatial variations in the scale and scope of the genocide by analyzing hitherto under-used qualitative and quantitative data. Using a mixed methods approach that utilizes both census and qualitative data from open-source published materials, we situate the killings, estimate their magnitude, and illustrate their impact, thereby providing a comprehensive and detailed demographic and spatial characterization of the violence. In the process, we illuminate the relationship between locations that show evidence of severe population loss associated with the genocide and the local cultural, economic, geographic, political, and social milieu. As a broader goal of this paper, we provide (a) a general framework for the study of genocides that have occurred and continue to occur and (b) a fuller understanding of the specific tragedy that transpired in Bangladesh, contributing in the process to the broader field of genocide studies.

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