The Political Ecology of an Environmental Crisis in the Brahmaputra Valley, Assam
Political ecology as a framework for studying nature–society relations has come a long way since the 1980s, both in terms of its thematic canvas as well as theoretical robustness. Research in political ecology on hazards on the other hand has not grown as impressively, even though humanity is witnessing increased risks and disasters in the Anthropocene. Indeed, disasters are no longer “extreme events” and have come to be regarded as normal occurrences. This paper delves deeper into the question of the political ecology of hazards and vulnerability by focusing on a case study from Majuli river island in India’s northeast. It critically investigates the twin disasters of flooding and riverbank erosion in Majuli by paying attention to the role of the biophysical features of the Brahmaputra river system as well as the political economic forces at play, with a special focus on the role of the state. The paper draws on fieldwork conducted in Majuli over several years. It foregrounds the role of the state in the reproduction of the Majuli hazardscape and calls for a nuanced, disaggregated analysis of the postcolonial disastrous state.
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