The decline of gangsters and politicisation of violence in urban Bangladesh

David Jackman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contrary to the Weberian ideal of a central state monopolising the means of violence, political order in many societies requires a balance of interests between diverse ‘violence specialists’. In urban Bangladesh, gangsters have been identified as powerful actors, closely linked to politicians and the state. Often called mastan, they are portrayed as mediating access to work and public services, as running extortion networks and providing political muscle. Since the early 2000s Dhaka has seen radical change largely undocumented to date: these gangsters are in significant decline. Many of the roles associated with these gangs however continue, but now under the direct control of lower level factions associated with the ruling political party; a transition that has brought a greater degree of stability to the urban context. These arguments are developed through ethnographic research from a large market place at the centre of Dhaka, examining the rise and fall of an infamous local gangster. In developing this case, it is argued that closer attention should be given to how the organisation of violence changes within societies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Change
Early online date19 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Violence
  • Bangladesh
  • urban
  • Mafia
  • gangsters
  • crime
  • politics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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