Creative Place-Making: Contemporary Art Practice and Urbanization in Dhaka | Harles | Visual Ethnography
Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access
Cover Image

Creative Place-Making: Contemporary Art Practice and Urbanization in Dhaka

Marlène Harles


This article focuses on the creative ways in which contemporary artists in Dhaka approach a specific locality within the city, its architecture, its communities and its histories. I show how they not only make sense of these encounters in their art works but how they actively claim the right to shape alternative images of and approaches to these localities. The analysis draws from my ethnographic material on 1mile2, a research-based public arts project organized by the Britto Arts Trust for the second time in 2014. Although many of the participating artists today live in the northern parts of the city, Britto chose to carry out the project in Old Dhaka, the erstwhile center and most southern part of the capital of Bangladesh. The article brings together considerations on ethnography, transculturality and creativity. I use these theoretical ‘building-blocks’ to discuss the (re)negotiation of urban space through the lens of place -making practices and the production of site-specific art works.


place-making; ethnography; city; urbanization; translocality; creativity; public art; site-specific art; heritage

Full Text:



AHMED, Nazimuddin

Discover the monuments of Bangladesh: A Guide to their History Location & Development. Dhaka: University Press.


Muzharul Islam, Kahn and architecture in Bangladesh. Mimar: Architecture in Development, 31: 55–63.


Lokalität und kulturelle Heterogenität: Selbstverortung und Identität in der multi-ethnischen Stadt (Kultur und soziale Praxis). Bielefeld: Transcript.

BRICKELL, Katherine – DATTA Ayona

Introduction: Translocal Geographies. In Translocal geographies: Spaces, places, connections. Katherine Brickell and Ayona DattaFarnham, Burlington, VT: Ashgate. pp. 3–22.

BROSIUS, Christiane

Emplacing and Excavating the City: Art, Ecology and Public Space in New Delhi. Journal of Transcultural Studies, (1): 75–125.


Homepage: About. Accessed online, June 27, 2016:


1mile2 Dhaka 2014. Accessed online, September 09, 2016:

BUSSE, Beatrix – WARNKE, Ingo H.

Ortsherstellung als sprachliche Praxis – sprachliche Praxis als Ortsherstellung. In Place-Making in urbanen Diskursen (Diskursmuster Bd. 7). Ingo H. Warnke (ed.). Berlin, München: De Gruyter. pp: 1–8.


Rethinking the Creative City: The Role of Complexity, Networks and Interactions in the Urban Creative Economy. Urban Studies, 48 (6): 1157–79.


Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts. The Independant (November). Accessed online April 06, 2018:


Archaeology, Bangladesh. Accessed online, September 15, 2016:


Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Afrika: 14 Gegenwartskünstler aus Côte d'Ivoire und Bénin. Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau.

FLORIDA, Richard

The rise of the creative class, revisited (10th Anniversary Edition). New York: Basic Books.

FLORIDA, Richard

Cities and the Creative Class. In The urban sociology reader (6th ed. - The Routledge urban reader series). Jan Lin and Christopher Mele (eds.). London, New York: Routledge. pp. 290–301.

FREITAG, Ulrike – OPPEN, Achim v.

Introduction: ‘Translocality’: An Approach to Connection and Transfer in Area Studies. In Translocality: The study of globalising processes from a southern perspective (Studies in global social history IV). Ulrike Freitag and Achim v. Oppen (eds.). Leiden, Boston: Brill. pp: 1–24.


Place and Place-Making in Cities: A Global Perspective: A Global Perspective. Planning Theory & Practice, 11 (2): 149–65.

GERMAN, Erik – PYN, Solana

Dhaka: fastest growing megacity in the world. Accessed online, June 23, 2016:


Oil spill on a Sundarbans river triggers environment concerns. Accessed online, July 12, 2016:

GREINER, Clemens

Patterns of Translocality: Migration, Livelihoods and Identity in Northwest Namibia. Sociologus, 60(2).


Religious Minorities. In Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Bangladesh. Ali Riaz and Mohammad S. Rahman. London, New York: Routledge. pp: 316–24.

HAFIZ, Roxana

Conservation in Dhaka. In 400 years of capital Dhaka and beyond: Rājadhānī Ḍhākāra 400 bachara o uttarakāla (Dhaka celebration series). Sharif Uddin Ahmed (ed.). Dhaka: Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Pp: 423–46.


Transnational connections: Culture people places (Comedia). London: Routledge.

HOEK, Lotte E.

Mofussil Metropolis: Civil sites, uncivil cinema and provinciality in Dhaka city. Ethnography, 13 (1): 28–42.

ISLAM, Nazrul

Dhaka Now: Contemporary Urban Development (Golden Jubilee Series 2). Dhaka: Bangladesh Geographical Society.

KHONDKER, Habibul H.

Dhaka: Megacity of Despair. Accessed online, June 23, 2016:

KUSENBACH, Margarethe

Street phenomenology: The go-along as ethnographic research tool. Ethnography, 4 (3): 455-485.

KWON, Miwon

One place after another: Site-specific art and locational identity. Cambridge: MIT Press.

MEUSBURGER, Peter – FUNKE, Joachim – WUNDER, Edgar (eds.)

Milieus of creativity: An interdisciplinary approach to spatiality of creativity (Knowledge and space 2). Berlin: Springer.

MOWLA, Qazi A.

Urban Aesthetics: A Study on Dhaka. In 400 years of capital Dhaka and beyond: Rājadhānī Ḍhākāra 400 bachara o uttarakāla (Dhaka celebration series). Sharif Uddin Ahmed (ed.). Dhaka: Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Pp: 169–86.

PHILLIPS, Patricia C.

Temporality and Public Art. Art Journal 48 (4): 331–35.


Errant paths: the poetics and politics of walking. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 29 (4): 672–692.

RADICE, Martha

Putting the Public in Public Art: An Ethnographic Approach to Two Temporary Art Installations. City & Society 30 (1): 45–67.

RAHMAN, Shafiqur

Shahbagh- Revolution and Counter-revolution. Accessed online June 06, 2015:


1971: A global history of the creation of Bangladesh. Cambridge, Massachusetts, London: Harvard University Press.

ROBINSON, Jennifer

The Urban Now: Theorising Cities Beyond the New. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 16 (6): 659–77.

ROBINSON, Jennifer

Cities in a World of Cities: The comparative gesture. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35 (1): 1–23.

ROBINSON, Jennifer

Ordinary cities: Between modernity and development (Questioning cities). London, New York: Routledge.

ROY, Ananya

a Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35 (2): 223–38.

SASSEN, Saskia

The Global City: Strategic Site, New Frontier. In Accumulation by Dispossession: Transformative Cities in the New Global Order. Swapna Banerjee-Guha (ed.). Los Angeles, London, New Delhi: Sage. pp: 33–54.


Towards an ethnographic turn in contemporary art scholarship. Critical Arts 27 (6): 737–52.

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

-2016 World Heritage List: The Sundarbans. Accessed online, July 12, 2016:

BRITTO ARTS TRUST – visiting arts (eds.)

1mile2 Dhaka: A Public Art Project: October 01 - December 04, 2009 (exhibition catalogue). Dhaka: Visiting Arts, Britto Arts Trust.

WASIF, Munem – CAUJOLLE, Christian

Belonging. Paris: Éditions Clémentine de La Féronnière.

WASIF, Munem

Works: Belonging. Accessed online, September, 18. 2016:

WELZ, Gisela

Inszenierungen kultureller Vielfalt. Frankfurt, New York, Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

YONG, Tan T. – KUDAISYA, Gyanesh (eds.)

Partition and Post-Colonial South Asia. A Reader: Volume I: History-writing, Violence, Borders. London, New York: Routledge.

ZAMAN, Tabassum

Imagining dhaka. Jamini : international arts quarterly, 1 (2): 110–13. Accessed online, April, 15. 2016:


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN Print 2499-9288
ISSN Online 2281-1605
Publisher Edizioni Museo Pasqualino
Patronage University of Basilicata, Italy
Web Salvo Leo

Periodico registrato presso il Tribunale di Palermo con numero di registrazione 1/2023