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PDRI-DevLab Spring 2024 Workshop Series: Manya Kagan

PDRI-DevLab is hosting a Spring 2024 Workshop Series featuring its staff and affiliates.

Topic: The Real History”: Teaching the 1971 War in Bangladesh

Presenter: Manya Kagan (joint with Biz Herman and Simul Khan)

Session details: This paper examines how narratives of Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War written in national social studies textbooks are taught in classrooms. Since independence, textbooks in Bangladesh have been sites of contestation, undergoing politically motivated revisions with each new regime that has come into power. This study examines how such narrative revisions are experienced in the classrooms—specifically, how teachers navigate the complex dynamics of teaching using the textbooks and reconciling competing narratives. We conduct six months of fieldwork, including over 30 school visits across six of Bangladesh’s eight divisions, as well as over 60 semi-structured interviews with teachers and administrators, in order to assess how politically-motivated textbook revisions impact educators’ classroom experiences. We identify four key themes in analyzing the classroom observations and educator interviews: teaching “real history”, teaching politicalization, teaching how to comply, and teaching by the book. This work contributes to the literature seeking to understand how state-sanctioned textbooks are brought into the real world. In doing so, it provides a better understanding of the gaps between curriculum design, politically motivated education, and the unique ways educators navigate these dynamics in their classrooms.

This session will be a workshop and participants are requested to read the paper beforehand.

For more information, reach out to


Manya Kagan

Manya Oriel Kagan is a sociologist of education, with a focus on refugee and migrant children’s rights to and in education in urban settings, primarily in East Africa and the Middle East. She has co-authored papers in journals including Race, Ethnicity and Education, Critique of Anthropology, and Adoption and Fostering. She completed her PhD at the School of Education at Ben Gurion University, Israel, and received her BA in comparative religions and her master’s in international development from The Hebrew University, Israel.