Vernacular Dwellings of the Rakhaine Diaspora in Bangladesh: Decoloniality, Tropicality, Hybridity




decolonizing vernacular architecture, postcolonial hybridity, tropical architecture, stilt houses, Rakhaine diaspora Bangladesh


Decolonization in tropical architecture upholds cultural identity and diversity in both its material and non-material forms. The Rakhaine, a diasporic ethnic minority in southern Bangladesh, migrated from the former Arakan state more than two centuries ago. They have gradually adapted their cultural way of life as well as their vernacular dwellings to their displaced context, especially in the last few decades. Their cultural identity shows a new dimension, which is termed hybridization in postcolonial discourses. Considering the above context, this research initially aims to understand the unique spatial-physical morphology of the Rakhaine's traditional stilt houses. Later, the study explores different influences behind the current hybridized transformation taking place in their vernacular dwelling. Through a qualitative case-study approach, an in-depth comparison of two dwellings was undertaken to document and understand both their traditional and hybridized aspects. Theoretically influenced by decoloniality, tropicality and hybridity, this study contributes to decolonial and postcolonial studies in tropical architecture and will be of interest to academics and professionals in understanding the unique in-betweenness of cultural hybridization of ethnic minorities in the South Asian and Southeast Asian contexts.

Author Biographies

Antu Das, Khulna University, Bangladesh

Antu Das is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Khulna University. He completed his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Khulna University in 2016 and a Master of Science in Human Settlements degree from the same institution in 2018. In his student life, he received multiple awards and scholarships for outstanding performance. His master’s thesis was funded by the National Science and Technology Fellowship of Bangladesh. His current research interests are to explore the resilient transformation of coastal settlements in Bangladesh, inclusive design, and rural morphology analysis. He is currently working as a research assistant (RA) on a project funded by the education ministry of the Bangladesh government titled, “Actualizing the Vision ‘My Village, My Town’ through Resilient Transformation of Rural Settlement”. As a native resident of Chattogram, Antu Das has always experienced the diversity of ethnicity in south-east Bangladesh. He has always felt the deepest urge to work for the cultural landscape of ethnic minorities to prioritize their cultural identity free from post-colonial socio-political hegemony.

Nur Mohammad Khan, Kulna University, Bangladesh

Nur Mohammad Khan is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Khulna University. He earned a Bachelor of Architecture in 2015 and a Master of Science in Human Settlements in 2017 from the same university. As an academic and architect, he is presently engaged in a number of research projects focusing on public interest architecture to promote social equity by examining vernacular architecture. Currently, he is addressing the risk that climate change poses to one of the endangered ethnic communities in Bangladesh, the Mru. Prior to that, he presented papers on urban informal settlements and climate resilience at international conferences. Recently, he received a scholarship to study the effects of climate change on historic structures with CyARK. Through investigating the fortitude of architecture, he works ceaselessly to support humanity. His strong propensity to work with ethnic communities compels him to work with Rakhaine, as he believes they exhibit the most effective response to external influences, while also preserving cultural identity.


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How to Cite

Das, A., & Khan, N. M. (2023). Vernacular Dwellings of the Rakhaine Diaspora in Bangladesh: Decoloniality, Tropicality, Hybridity. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 22(2), 193–217.