In this article, we have traced local perceptions relating to and desires of mobility and described the multiple ways in which contemporary Garo society is mobile.
Analysing the narratives of our informants we identified three interconnected dimensions which were key to their (aspired) mobility: desires to build lives and careers in urban centres, expectations of upward social mobility, and wishes to be part of the ‘global community’ through communication technology and accessing a ‘modern’ lifestyle. Building on these insights and examining both experienced and imagined mobilities amongst young Garos, we also examined how the three dimensions mutually influence each other and (re)shape the lives of these young Garos. Our study revealed how on the one hand educational and employment opportunities in urban centres (spatial mobility) leading to higher positions in society (social mobility) were widely desired and appreciated. On the other hand, this form of mobility has created new social hierarchies, anxieties and feelings of insecurity in the lives of those ‘on the move’ as well as to those people who did not become mobile. In sum, we argued how recent developments beg for an analysis of indigenous or ethnic minorities in Bangladesh breaking away from a focus on rootedness and autochthony and incorporating notions of mobility and change.
Such approach does not only shed more light on what mobility means for the people concerned. It also contributes to a better understanding of past and present processes of social transformation amongst indigenous groups like the Garos, and challenges dominant notions of tribal or indigenous communities as frozen and relatively unchanging.