A roof over the head | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 26, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 26, 2008

A roof over the head

Rahad Abir appreciates an unusual research work

To have sound knowledge of an ethnic group's culture, customs and manners one needs to know about the region the group inhabits, indeed the state of its housing and habitation. How a community lives, what its their economic conditions and psychological state are can well be comprehended through studies of its housing technology and beautification. Traditional Housing Technology of the Barind Tract is a research work by Syed Arman Hossain which made its appearance at this year's Ekushey Book Fair.
The main objective of the research is to document the traditional housing technology of the Barind tract. The study encompasses the traditional environmental knowledge of the people, the socio-economic features and their impact, the extent of eco-adaptiveness and cost-effectiveness, beliefs and rituals associated with house construction and house warming and other relevant factors. For purposes of the research the writer has selected three villages and their housing technology. The three villages are Saraigachi, Mamudpur and Tetulia Mathbari in Porsha upazila of Naogaon district.
Recognising the need for a systematic documentation of indigenous knowledge practices, this book deals with the housing technologies of traditional rural Muslims as well as the ethnic people such as Santals, Mundas and Oraonas inhabiting the Barind tract of Bangladesh. It shows how their worldview and cultural understanding influence their housing practices, which are very sustainable. As revealed by the investigation, their environmental knowledge, rational assessment of socio-cultural needs, sense of economy, resource management practices, family relations and community behaviour find expressions in their housing choices. Drawing on the perspective of architectural anthropology, the book throws light on the traditional technology used by the Barind people for building houses. The approach indicates their potential when it comes to enriching the concept of sustainable development.
In order to collect the varied information and data relating to the preparation of the manuscript, the writer had to engage in extensive field work, and get closely acquainted with the people of the villages in question.
The writer, in a recent interview with a newspaper, was emphatic in his expression of gratitude: “I got much help from the local inhabitants. The majority Muslims and also Santals, Oraon and Munda people were very genial, enthusiastic and responsive in providing me with information and data. I was pleased to see their simplicity.” But the research is not free from limitations. The writer acknowledges some unavoidable circumstances having limited the scope for data collection. For instance, communication facilities in the area were not very good; it was difficult to enter a Muslim house as people considered it somewhat offensive to their traditional purdah custom: and then there were the rainy conditions in the months of June and July. In spite of these limitations, the writer has tried to conduct his research in the best possible way.
It can be said in the end that not only keen readers and students of anthropology but also students of architecture, interested readers among ethnic people and development workers will find the work a healthy point of reference.

Rahad Abir is a journalist .

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