The writing piece that I am planning to complete during this programme is a conceptual journal article. The paper will be written based on my long-term engagement with various cities in Bangladesh through multiple projects and, most importantly, based on my own lived experience. Although I have some experience writing journal articles based on empirical data, I do not have experience writing a conceptual paper. Methodologically, I will be using my own lived experience and embodied knowledge as a researcher and an urban dweller. In addition, I am also considering engaging with native Bangla music, drama, and literature as a source of references to situate Chaad (rooftop) in the urban landscape to understand the socio-cultural meaning of urban life, which will also be an experimental method for me. I am hoping this programme will allow me to explore and experiment with an atypical writing style and method and learn to write something close to my heart which is not part of any project.

I am an academic wanderer. I started my career as an anthropologist then migrated to geography. While I immigrate to geography, although I occasionally visit my old home, i.e. anthropology, to meet my friends, do research, and collaborate with folks from my former academic family. Like my academic career, my personal life has been itinerant. I am originally from Bangladesh; the UK has been my “home” for the past 12 years. I visit my folks back home just the way I pay occasional visits to my academic family in anthropology. It is a real privilege to have multi-disciplinary ‘homes’, and I love my diverse experiences of living in two very different worlds (North & South). However, I find these very difficult to answer when anyone asks me what is ‘home’ to me or how I label myself as an ‘academic’- anthropologist or a geographer. So, the idea of home, identity, and label puzzle me all the time. Probably that’s the reason I am always interested in the idea of home, identity and space. That’s why I wanted to write about this article on an ordinary space of a home, i.e. rooftop, which is empty but full of life and stories.

Let me tell you a bit more about the paper now. The paper that I plan to write is conceptualisation the urban rooftop (Chaad) in Bangladesh. Chaad an integral structure of a home or a building that protects the dwellers from rain, sunlight, wind and extreme temperature. Usually, the rooftop is considered a lifeless urban space with no practical use for many parts of the world. A rooftop is a flat and empty space, may look alike but holds multiple dimensions of urban life in Bangladesh. As a wasted space, the rooftop has been ignored often as an important site of study by planners and urban scholars. Many urban scholars have written about urban space from a various perspectives such as public space, the production of space, space and time, but not many have written on spaces like urban rooftop that is ordinary and mundane. This ordinary space challenges and overlaps the idea of private and public, individual and collective, personal and social space; it brings together neighbours as well as splits them; it is a place to hide from family life and a place to find oneself, it also a gendered space where a number of household chores take place and sometimes women use this space to escape their chores. In the paper, I argue urban rooftop is a socially produced space in Bangladesh that may not have significant economic value but has substantial socio-cultural meaning to the urban dwellers in Bangladesh.

The proposed paper aims to contribute conceptually to the urban studies scholarships. I am not an urban researcher, but the rooftop has repeatedly emerged in my research projects as a critical urban space. For example, in my PhD research I looked at the transitions of solar energy in rural and urban homes in Bangladesh. My research findings uncovered a number of reasons why solar energy projects have failed in urban areas in Bangladesh and unwillingness to occupy the rooftop with solar panels was one of the reason. In my research what I found that rooftops in cities have multiple uses. It has a social life and has a strong socio-cultural meaning to the everyday life of urban dwellers. Despite having an economic benefit from solar electricity, the residents of high-rise building are not ready to occupy their rooftops with solar panels. This kind of socio-cultural understanding is important for critical scholarship since these days myriad debates around productive use of urban rooftop and several initiatives have been proposed globally to covert urban rooftop as green-space, eco-garden for a sustainable city transition.

Raihana Ferdous

University of Glasgow