Saad Quasem

PhD Candidate

BA, 2009,  Temple University 

MSc, 2012, University of Edinburgh 

MA, 2018, University of Virginia, 


Fixity of the River, Fluidity of Soil: A Social Archive of the Chars on the Brahmapatura River

My doctoral research convenes a social archive of the Chardwellers in the Kurigram District (Bangladesh) tributaries of the Brahmaputra River. Chars can be described as landmasses on surface water which appear, disappear and change shape along with the flow of the water. Foregrounding a dynamic and ever-changing system, the Chardwellers of Kurigram forge a specific chain of meaning, which may seem disconnected by the fragmented landscape they live on, but from deep engagement with Chardwellers, I present that continuity and discontinuity in the chars lies in the idea of place consisting of the diametric fixity of the river and fluidity of the soil. Such an understanding organizes everyday life in the chars; my project probes the enactment of this ontology in five everyday contexts: the local idea of weather and time, maritime knowledge, land settlement patterns, place-naming, and negotiations with the state. By collecting narratives, understanding affective embodiment through participation and observing the ways of documentation of these five contexts, my goal lies in convening a social archive-an assemblage of the way the Chardweller sees, feels and finds. The completion of this social archive, I hope shall decolonize the understandings of the term “land” and “water” as well as the terms synonymous with these imperial abstractions.

Further, details can be found on the website (available July, 2021). 


Key Words: Social Archive; Anthropology of Rivers;  Late Capitalism; State-Environment Relations; Politics of River Systems; Riverine Ontologies; Chaos Theory; Land-use and Conflict, Missing Cartography; Affective Embodiment; Perception of Time and weather; Place-naming; Oral Histories; Local documentation processes;