Dispossession and Resistance in India: The River and the Rage (Hardback) book cover

Dispossession and Resistance in India

The River and the Rage

By Alf Gunvald Nilsen

© 2010 – Routledge

242 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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This book deals with the controversies on developmental aspects of large dams, with a particular focus on the Narmada Valley projects in India. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and research, the author draws on Marxist theory to craft a detailed analysis of how local demands for resettlement and rehabilitation were transformed into a radical anti-dam campaign linked to national and transnational movement networks.

The book explains the Narmada conflict and addresses how the building of the anti-dam campaign was animated by processes of collective learning, how activists extended the spatial scope of their struggle by building networks of solidarity with transnational advocacy groups, and how it is embedded in and shaped by a wider field of force of capitalist development at national and transnational scales. The analysis emphasizes how the Narmada dam project is related to national and global processes of capitalist development, and relates the Narmada Valley movement to contemporary popular struggles against dispossession in India and beyond.

Conclusions drawn from the resistance to the Narmada dams can be applied to social movements in other parts of the Global South, where people are struggling against dispossession in a context of neoliberal restructuring. As such, this book will have relevance for people with an interest in South Asian studies, Indian politics and Development Studies.


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"This book is an exemplary analysis of an important social movement against a major dam project in post-colonial India… the book is a theoretically and empirically rich study of one of the most significant movements against neoliberal globalisation, and will surely inform future studies of movements in the developing world." - Manali Desai, London School of Economics, UK Capital & Class, 2011

"The author has written a devastating critique of current economic planning in India. In many ways we need such an authoritative feeling analysis to validate what might otherwise seem the strident opposition of Arundhati Roy to Indian capitalism today. It provides a very disturbing insight into the cost of globalisation." - Antony Copley, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Kent; Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

"Nilsen reminds us that the possibility of radical social change ultimately lies in building alliances between different social movements, in developing a capacity for counter-hegemony and posing systemic challenges to the present socio-historical totality." - Budhaditya Das, Department of Social Work, University of Delhi; Economic and Political Weekly

Table of Contents

1. The River and the Rage: Introducing the Narmada Valley Conflict 2. Losing Ground: Accumulation by Dispossession in the Narmada Valley 3. Everyday Tyranny and Rightful Resistance: The Emergence of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath 4. Discovering the Dam: Militant Particularist Struggles for Resettlement and Rehabilitation 5. Towards Opposition: The Formation of the Anti-Dam Campaign 6. Cycles of Struggle: The Trajectory of the Anti-Dam Campaign 1990-2000 7. Enablements and Constraints: The Making of the Maheshwar Anti-Dam Campaign 8. Development, Not Destruction: Alternative Development as a Social Movement Project 9. Whither the Rage? Learning from the Narmada Valley Movement Process

About the Author

Alf Gunvald Nilsen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen, Norway. His research interests cover social movement theory and research, critical development research, and Marxist approaches to the political economy of capitalist development – all with special reference to India and South Asia.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in South Asian Studies

South Asia, with its burgeoning, ethnically diverse population, soaring economies, and nuclear weapons, is an increasingly important region in the global context. The series, which builds on this complex, dynamic and volatile area, features innovative and original research on the region as a whole or on the countries. Its scope extends to scholarly works drawing on history, politics, development studies, sociology and economics of individual countries from the region as well those that take an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the area as a whole or to a comparison of two or more countries from this region. In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the insights germane to area studies, as well as the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods. The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from young authors who have recently completed their doctoral dissertations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General