The political ecology of road construction in Ladakh

Demenge, Jonathan (2012) The political ecology of road construction in Ladakh. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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This thesis explores the politics and consequences of road construction for local
populations and migrant road workers in Ladakh. Through a political ecology
framework, I consider road construction as the transformation of an environment in
which different agents act through specific socio-political arrangements and for
purposes that are socially and culturally mediated. Based on ethnographic fieldwork
conducted in remote villages and among groups of Nepali and Jharkhandi road workers
in Ladakh, the thesis documents the case of the Zanskar Highway, a 292 km long trans-
Himalayan road that has been under construction since the 1970s. It analyses the
reasons why states build roads, nationally and more specifically in the contested
landscape of Ladakh; why people want roads; how people negotiate roads and their
trajectory; and what the consequences of roads and road construction are in terms of
mobility, isolation, resource use, livelihoods and well-being.

In the thesis, I question the roads-development nexus, and argue that the reasons why
states build roads are extremely diverse and have changed over time. I argue that road
construction is a highly political process determined by conflicting motivations and
perceptions. I also argue that the consequences of roads are complex, often ambiguous
and region-specific, and that gains and losses that occur because of roads and their
construction are unequally distributed, within and between local and migrant

The research makes an original contribution to road studies by studying the political,
socio-economic and symbolic consequences of both roads and the process of their
construction for the populations that live near new roads and those who build them. It
also links ex-ante with ex-post road studies by looking at what happens during the
process of construction. Finally, it contributes to Ladakh studies by documenting the
history of road construction in the region and providing the first study of migrants in

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: Institute of Development Studies
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS History of Asia > DS401 India (Bharat)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD4801 Labour. Work. Working class
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General) > TA1001 Transportation engineering
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 03 May 2012 08:39
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2015 13:16

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