Ganga is 'Disappearing': Women, Development, and Contentious Practice on the Ganges River Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Drew, Georgina
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • This dissertation explores conflict over development and ecological change along the upper stretch of the Ganga River in the Garhwal Himalayas, India. I focus on the circulation of competing discourses about change on the sacred Hindu river, the emergence of actors and movements that address the Ganga's management, and the transformation of actor subjectivities. I especially emphasize the meanings that people produce about a river that some fear could `disappear' due to the projected impacts of hydroelectric development and upstream glacial melt. My framing of these issues employs social practice theory to situate the past and enduring struggles that inform the conflict. In using this theoretical lens and especially its dialogic approach, I present a variety of views and discourses to elucidate the cultural or figured worlds that inform the debates about the river's management. Through the exploration of river dialogues, I demonstrate how the conflict is charged with varied understandings of the Ganga's utility, the agency of its Hindu Goddess, and the continuity of the cultural-religious practices linked with its flow. Since a number of mountain women participated in debates about the Ganga's management, my dissertation highlights their discourses and actions. I do this while drawing from feminist political ecology to show the significance of gendered practice. I also establish how some women employ particular cultural forms and genres of expression, such as devotional song, to evoke the figured worlds in which the sanctity of the river's grace-providing flow is paramount. I then indicate how the performance of these songs enable women's participation in movement activities and the influence they have on subjectivities. These points of inquiry illuminate the entanglement of cultural, religious, and gendered concerns in environmental conflict along the Ganga. The dissertation contributes to critical development studies by showing the mixed desires for, and ideas about, development; it adds to our understanding of the relationship between gendered practice in daily life and movement activity in the Himalayas; it shows how movement involvement influences actor subjectivities; and it demonstrates the meaning-making practices that people produce to interpret transformations on a river that is revered as a living Goddess.
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  • In Copyright
  • Holland, Dorothy
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2011

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