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The Sardar Sarovar Dam Project: Subaltern Erasure and Neocolonial Advancement in Urban Development Discourse

Author:

Elaine O'Donnell

Utrecht University, NL
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Abstract

Spanning across the mid-20th century to contemporary society, the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project in India has been a site of highly contested legal, social, and economic controversies. The project was initially praised for the benefits it would bring to the communities clustered around the Narmada River, the site of the dam, through its innovative water irrigation and hydroelectric properties. However, the project soon tumbled into chaos as the social activist group Narmada Bachao Andolan ‘Save the Narmada Movement’ (NBA) protested and petitioned the Indian government to halt construction of the dam. Comprised of Indigenous peoples, climate protesters, and human rights activists, the NBA argued that the native people who lived alongside the Narmada River were being forcefully displaced from their ancestral homes, causing harm to their communities, and leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. In this paper, I seek to understand how the discourse surrounding the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project functions as a societal representative mechanism, and how this effects the way the adivasi and their struggles were understood by mainstream society. Applying an explicitly feminist, decolonial approach to my analysis of the discourse, I examine a legal document from the Supreme Court of India and the construction of wider economic narratives relating to the dam, to explore the extent that the discourse serves to erase subaltern identities and advance neocolonial ideologies, urging for a feminist, decolonial urban development praxis.
How to Cite: O'Donnell, E., 2022. The Sardar Sarovar Dam Project: Subaltern Erasure and Neocolonial Advancement in Urban Development Discourse. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 6(2), pp.36–49. DOI: http://doi.org/10.33391/jgjh.131
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Published on 01 Jul 2022.
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