On August 10, 2023, students from both BA and MA in English programs of the Department of English and Humanities, ULAB, presented their research proposals for the upcoming 9th Inter-University Student Conference. The 3-minute presentations were held as part of the selection process to find the student who would represent DEH and ULAB at the Conference. The conference is organized annually by the Department of English and Humanities and only one paper is selected. The students were given the opportunity to present their research topics focusing on the finalized theme of this year’s conference, “Gender: The Binary and Beyond.”
The first presenter, Ritobina Ria Dey, a BA student, presented her topic titled “The Language of Gender: Shaping Attitudes and Promoting Acceptance for Non-Binary Identities in the Mainstream Media.” She claimed that not much research has been conducted on how language in popular culture affects non-binary people as previous studies have largely concentrated on how language influences gender. Hence, she intended to address the influence of mainstream media and how inclusive language might benefit the media industry to foster more welcoming workplaces for all people.
The next presenter, Amreeta Lethe Chowdhury, another BA student, presented her proposal “Against Assimilations: Literature as a Tool of Retaining and Reclaiming Trans and Gender Diverse Identity in Bangladesh.” She argued that literature is history, especially for marginalized communities. Her presentation emphasized how sexually marginalized people are often met with the threat of violence and erasure, and for them, oral lore and written documentation become the primary, if not the only, means of holding on to history that would otherwise be long lost, and thus forgotten. She further explained how her paper would take an anti-assimilationist approach to examining and analyzing examples of queer Bangladeshi literature as a mode of dissidence and resistance against nationalist, corporate, and cis-heteronormative hegemonies and their agendas which are rife with respectability politics and conceptions of “model minorities.”
The next topic “Deconstruction of Normalizing Abuse in Promising Young Woman” was presented by Md. Naimul Islam, an MA student. His presentation reflected on Emerald Fannell’s Promising Young Woman (2020), a shrewd response against the male narrative and the tropes constructed by the media. He argued that by subverting the conventional revenge thriller genre of a tortured woman going on a violent spree of murders, this film instead portrays the honest experience of a woman, Cassie, who is traumatized and scarred by an event that took her friend’s life. The primary focus of Naimul’s presentation was to examine how Cassie and her actions counter the male narrative tropes in the film. In doing so, he contended that Promising Young Woman deconstructs the normalizing of abuse as a necessary vehicle for character growth and strength.
The next presenter Ereti Rhidil Rahman, a BA student, presented her topic “Representation of Gender and Sexuality in English Language Teaching Textbooks of Secondary Schools in Bangladesh.” She brought out the issue of misrepresentation of gender in secondary school textbooks in Bangladesh. She mentioned that the purpose of her study is to observe the ELT textbooks taught in secondary schools in Bangladesh, English for Today and Secondary English, for Grade 6 and Grade 7, and analyze the way they present female and male characters in their text, images, and illustrations; examine if they only portray cis-heteronormativity or whether they are inclusive of diverse gender identities as well; what their average degree of heteronormativity is; and whether the representation varies between Bangla and English medium textbooks.
Next, Tarin Ahmad Diba, a BA student, presented the topic “Language Expression, Safe Space, and Suppression: Perspectives from Bangladeshi Queer People.” The main argument of her presentation was that queer communities in Bangladesh suppress their identity through the use of sign languages. For instance, she mentioned that trans-linguistic suppression is visible among the Hijra community as they use the language “Ulti” so that people outside of their community cannot understand them as it contains sexual connotations, and represents their customs which may go against the social norms. She also added that transgenders and homosexuals often go through trans-semiotic suppression as they have to act like cisgender people, and sometimes homophobic, in order to hide their queer identity, and live a dual life (straight in public and queer in safe spaces). She proposed that through personal observation, semi-structured interviews, and thematic analysis, her paper will bring out the issues related to language expression, suppression of queer identities, and the concept of safe space.
The final presenter, Abrar Farhan Zaman, a BA student, focused on the topic “Transcending Boundaries: Ursula K. Le Guin's Trailblazing Journey through the Gender Binary and Beyond.” His presentation reflected on Le Guin’s seminal works The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed by discussing how these science fiction novels transport the readers to worlds where gender defies traditional norms. He further exemplified how her narratives construct societies where individuals possess fluid gender identities or none at all. His proposition was that Le Guin’s visionary narrative depicted in the novels demonstrate how her exploration of the gender binary and beyond remains profoundly relevant in our evolving understanding of gender and its role in shaping the human experience. By concentrating on Le Guin’s literary legacy, the presenter aspired to ignite meaningful argumentation and foster a more enlightened perspective on gender through his research paper.
At the end of the presentations, each participant answered questions, received feedback for further improvement, and gained new insights regarding their research topics from the faculty members as well as from the audience. The event was attended by the Head of the Department and Associate Professor, Arifa Ghani Rahman, MA Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Nadia Rahman, BA Coordinator and Lecturer, Nusrat Tajkia, and other faculty members and students.
Report by Sanjida Akter (222055008)