“Diaspora” means “the scattering of people away from their homeland”. Shafiqur Rahman, associate professor of communication arts, employs this term in his new book; “The Bangladeshi Diaspora in the United State After 9/11: From Obscurity to High Visibility”.
According to the book’s description, it centers around how “After 9/11, Bangladeshi-Americans felt pressured to see their identities in binary Muslim vs. American terms. They refused to accept this identity not only because it does not fit, but also because it curtails their ability to engage society in multiple terms and to exercise their rights as citizens.” The one-pound tome is part of a series called “The New Americans: Recent Immigration & American Society” which Texas-based LBF Scholarly Publishing has created to focus on the diverse populations of America.
After its publication on February 15th, “Bangladeshi Diaspora” has already won the Honor Award for the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association’s Award for Literature for 2011-12, under the adult non-fiction category.
The Eagle sat down with Rahman to discuss his new book.
Q. Why are you so interested in the diaspora concept?
A. “Because I’m a part of one. Historically the term was used to describe the Jewish peoples’ exile from Jerusalem, but now there are so many small packets of people it has become a modern term. I also specialize in international communications, which diaspora is an important part of. So many people are moving around the world; I wanted to address the issues of their life, their identity, and their problems. Our numbers are growing. I certainly hope people will learn about Bangladeshis, and all our interesting stories and histories.”
Q. When did you immigrate to America?
A. “Sept. 1st, 1999, I moved to Louisiana, where I got my masters, and then I lived in Illinois, where I got my Ph.D. from Southern Ill. University.”
Q. So you came to America to continue your studies?
A. “I looked to Canada and the U.K, but only America’s financial assistantship allowed me to continue my scholarly work and education. It would have been difficult to support my education in Bangladesh.”
Q. In the book’s title it says “ from obscurity to high visibility.” What does that mean?
A. “Bangladesh is a tiny country, not strategically important, and so not usually known to Americans. 500,000 people of Bangladeshi origins live in the U.S. All these people are rarely noticed. Suddenly, after 9/11, we became “visible” to the government. People connected us to the idea of an unwelcome people. I tried to capture that feeling in my work.”
Q. How does it feel to win this award?
A. “I didn’t know I was participating. My publisher sent in the book, I think routinely. I had no clue, then I found out Tuesday. They are an association of librarians, so I am very happy about how much promotion it will mean. It’s a good feeling, having recognition, it gives me confidence to pursue other works. “
Rahman is currently working on another book, about a Bangladeshi artist, living in N.Y., which he hopes to have published.
The APALA will present Rahman with a plaque this June in Anaheim, CA.