Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
This research aims to understand the intimate linkages between hazards, infrastructure, and indigenous politics in the context of anti-dam activism and a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in the Eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, India. The Indian Himalayan Region, a climate change hotspot, is witnessing a massive surge in large scale infrastructural development alongside an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural hazard events. Earthquakes and landslides near hydropower project sites, along with incidents of shamanic possession by angered mountain deities, raised serious doubts about the viability of hydropower projects for both local communities and regional technocrats. I take a materialist and postcolonial approach to examine how state apathy combined with the visceral quality of ecological precarity, has prompted solidarity between disparate groups and demands for policies and projects sensitive to the region’s cultural and geo-physical particularities. I also foreground the experiences of indigenous youth to demonstrate how environmental vulnerability has a direct bearing on young people’s lives, labor, and politics. Young people are at the center of this research as it interrogates how these myriad transformations are shaping their political subjectivities, which are ultimately tied to the political, cultural, and ecological future of this region. Employing qualitative and participatory research methodologies I present a fine-grained analysis of the geo-physical, cultural, and political processes that interrupt the centralization of state authority and environmental governance in the Himalayan region.