Lutfun Nahar Lata, University of Queensland:
I was extremely pleased and honoured to receive a TASA Postgraduate Conference Scholarship to attend the TASA Annual Conference in Perth in November 2017. This scholarship is an important recognition of my PhD research in the area of urban sociology. This scholarship further provided me an opportunity to network with renowned academics and fellow PhD students and to get constructive feedback on my research. I am in the final stages of my PhD in Sociology at the School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. My doctoral research explores the importance of urban public space for livelihood practices of poor people, incorporating a gender perspective.
The paper I presented at TASA Conference explored how the urban poor make use of translocal networks to find work and claim a space for livelihoods in a megacity, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Drawing on interview data with poor migrants from Sattola slum in Dhaka, my research reveals that local government in Dhaka does not provide shelter and employment opportunities for incoming rural migrants, who often migrate to Dhaka following in the footsteps of their relatives and fictive kin to earn a living. This creates the translocal migrant network, a network constituted through migration in which migrants exchange resources, practices and ideas among themselves. This plays an important role in the success of a new migrant settling in Dhaka. The migrants settle with their relatives or rent a room close to their relatives’ room. Apart from settling in, the urban poor mostly depend on their translocal networks to appropriate public space for earning incomes. In addition, the urban poor receive start-up business capital from their translocal networks. The urban poor also learn business mechanisms, working with their relatives for the first few months before starting their businesses. However, they often run businesses similar to those of their kin and friends and make a business network of their own. They also come to know from their translocal networks that they have to pay a certain amount of money to linemen (extortionists) if they want to buy temporary security over their vending spaces. The significance of these findings is that these practices are not only relevant to the urban poor of Dhaka. Similar practices are evident in other parts of the Global South, where strong social networks and kinship play an important role in the livelihood practices of the urban poor.