Article InformationEdit

Title: State science, irrigation policies and resettlement management: the multidimensional effects of a large dam on the social reorganization of a village in Central India

Author(s): Joel Cabalion

Affiliation: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: Sustainable Development


Science and technology have always been the core elements at stake of most development projects in India: a field of action generally oscillating between gandhian irenic thought and expert bureaucratic alleged pragmatism. Designs of global social improvement face significant issues. State bureaucracies yet come to justify, regardless of its implications, the unwanted production of social suffering induced by massive displacements.

This research deals with a major dam project whose completion might positively change the economic horizon of many districts in Central India. The management of waters could give a vertically upward agrarian impetus due to better-planned irrigation policies and increased productivity. Its achievement will nevertheless bear irreversible social and political marks of mismanagement and iniquitous treatment faced by the to-be displaced population of hundreds of villages: marks of dispossession essentially, both material (land, properties) and symbolic (rights to participate in the process).

Science and Technology Studies ought to contribute in depth to the knowledge of the specific effects state projects have on the social structure of a concerned region, particularly if such a region is destined to undergo unequal and differentiated treatment (by the affected and non-affected people). STS have to deal with complex institutions whose structural duplicity can sometimes prove to be negative in a manner that little is actually controlled or managed as intended to.

A sociological analysis both empirically grounded and theoretically uncompromising can undo the presuppositions of “development at any cost” in order to illustrate the unexpected and so-called minor aspects of forced and constrained development: an analysis risk-conscious thus politically-enabling.

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