Trapped in the prison of the mind: Notions of climate-induced (im)mobility decision-making and wellbeing from an urban informal settlement in Bangladesh

  • 2020•04•20

    Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Dominic Kniveton and Terry Cannon

    The concept of Trapped Populations has until date mainly referred to people ‘trapped’ in environmentally high-risk rural areas due to economic constraints. This article attempts to widen our understanding of the concept by investigating climate-induced socio-psychological immobility and its link to Internally Displaced People’s (IDPs) wellbeing in a slum of Dhaka. People migrated here due to environmental changes back on Bhola Island and named the settlement Bhola Slum after their home. In this way, many found themselves ‘immobile’ after having been mobile—unable to move back home, and unable to move to other parts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, or beyond. The analysis incorporates the emotional and psychosocial aspects of the diverse immobility states. Mind and emotion are vital to better understand people’s (im)mobility decision-making and wellbeing status. The study applies an innovative and interdisciplinary methodological approach combining Q-methodology and discourse analysis (DA). This mixed-method illustrates a replicable approach to capture the complex state of climate-induced (im)mobility and its interlinkages to people’s wellbeing. People reported facing non-economic losses due to the move, such as identity, honour, sense of belonging and mental health. These psychosocial processes helped explain why some people ended up ‘trapped’ or immobile. The psychosocial constraints paralysed them mentally, as well as geographically. More empirical evidence on how climate change influences people’s wellbeing and mental health will be important to provide us with insights in how to best support vulnerable people having faced climatic impacts, and build more sustainable climate policy frameworks.

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