Hasna Begum (1935-2020)

Hasna Begum, professor emerita of philosophy at the University of Dhaka, has died.

Professor Begum was known for her work in bioethics and feminist philosophy. Some of her scholarly writings are collected in edited collections, such as Women in the Developing World: Thoughts and Ideals. She also translated several Western philosophical classics into Bengali. You can learn more about some of her writings here and here.

Professor Begum took up her position at the University of Dhaka in 1978. She had earned her undergraduate and master’s degree there, but moved to Australia to get her Ph.D. at Monash University, where she was the first doctoral advisee of Peter Singer (now at Princeton). Her dissertation, later published as a book, was on the moral philosophy of G.E. Moore. In 2010, the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh appointed her Rokeya Chair, an honor named for Begum Rokeya, the famed Bengali feminist writer, educator, and activist. In a post about her (from which much of the foregoing was drawn), Rainer Ebert (Centre de recherche en éthique, Montreal) writes: “Like Rokeya, Hasna too was acutely aware of the ills of society, particularly the oppression of women and children, and an outspoken proponent of social reform.”

Begum was 36 years old when she left Bangladesh to pursue her Ph.D. in philosophy. She had been married at age 13 and in 1974, at the start of her doctoral studies, she was a mother of six children and a grandmother. Her story made the Australian news:

A profile of Hasna Begum, age 36, from Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1974. Click image to be taken to a transcript of the article.

In his obituary of her, Dr. Ebert writes:

The story of Hasna’s life is one of sacrifice, perseverance, and love of inquiry. Against all odds, she reached the highest echelon of academia and became one of Bangladesh’s most respected intellectuals. She has inspired generations of students, especially women students in Bangladesh, and her memory will inspire generations to come. Contemplating her illustrious career in an autobiographical piece that was published in the Dhaka Courier in 2018, she wrote: “I am satisfied and my heart is at peace. This is all I had yearned and endeavored for.”

You can read Professor Begum’s autobiographical essay here.

She died of COVID-19 on December 1st.

(via Rainer Ebert)

Central European University Philosophy Graduate Program
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Louis F. Cooper
Louis F. Cooper
3 years ago

As someone with personal connections to Bangladesh (albeit rather thin ones at this point), I found this obit interesting; thank you for the post (and links).