In 2017 the RESOLVE Network partnered with the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, and the Center for Genocide Studies at Dhaka University to implement a mixed-methods research project aimed at understanding the relationships and linkages between religious narratives, political and social identity, and government institutional legitimacy. The project aimed at teasing apart individual, social, and political dynamics contributing to persistent and emerging drivers of violence in Bangladesh. RESOLVE’s research sought to contribute to the growing body of literature on Bangladesh and violent extremism, where anecdotal indications suggest that the perceived increase in vulnerability to violent extremism and resonance of anti-secular narratives is driven by both external and internal factors.
RESOLVE’s research model is committed to substantively including the expertise of international, regional, and local stakeholders in research design; elevating the capacity and knowledge of local researchers; and communicating findings to researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and constituent communities impacted by violent extremism in Bangladesh and around the world. As a pilot effort for RESOLVE Network research design and implementation, we sought to gain insights and new data on hypothesized external and internal conflict drivers, using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. RESOLVE engaged four Bangladeshi researchers to conduct on-the-ground research activities, including key-informant interviews, focus groups, statistical analysis, and desk research. The scholars were paired with three principal investigators with deep expertise in South Asia and quantitative and qualitative methods. Our quantitative efforts supported a countrywide baseline survey of attitudes on religious identity, citizenship, and political legitimacy, conducted in partnership with a local enumeration firm. In parallel, our qualitative activities focused on youth and student populations on public and private university campuses, as well as local-level police units that are often the first to be contacted before and after political or extremist violence erupts.
In the coming months and years, the Bangladeshi government’s ability to effectively prevent and counter violent extremism will be critical for the country’s development trajectory and overall stability, which will need to progress against the backdrop of several other competing national-level priorities.
The resulting mapping paper; research briefs, coauthored by our 2017 Research Fellows and Principal Investigators; and associated factsheets elaborate more fully on findings from RESOLVE’s 2016-2017 Research Initiative on the drivers of discontent and sources of resiliency to violent extremism in Bangladesh. The information contained therein gives nuanced insights useful to policymakers, practitioners, and researchers seeking to better understand the dynamics of conflict in Bangladesh and how otherwise disparate factors contribute to societal vulnerabilities to violent extremism.