Sustainable developmentality: interrogating the sustainability gaze and the cultivation of mountain subjectivities in the central Indian Himalayas

Orchard, Steven (2021) Sustainable developmentality: interrogating the sustainability gaze and the cultivation of mountain subjectivities in the central Indian Himalayas. Geoforum, 127. pp. 209-221. ISSN 0016-7185

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Abstract

Sustainability challenges persist in the central Indian Himalayas (CIH) despite an array of solutions proffered by external experts. This paper interrogates the sustainability gaze which reflects attempts to reconcile neoliberal economic growth with environmental conservation within the logics of technical and biophysical rationalities - by exploring local experiences of rapid and uncertain social and environmental change. Three strands of policy and practice shape the gaze: (i) natural hazard mitigation for climate change adaptation; (ii) reducing social vulnerability through pro-poor development; and (iii) increasing resilience through environmental management and conservation. Results challenge narratives that overpopulation causes environmental degradation and changing patterns of migration are a natural process of modernisation in the CIH. Alternative local narratives highlight haphazard and inequitable economic growth, lack of mountain planning and disaster management, inadequate social welfare programmes, and monkey relocation policies as the major sustainability challenges. The paper discusses how the gaze produces 'sustainable developmentality' - a depoliticising process that cultivates multiple and conflicting mountain subjectivities, namely: (i) active community members responsible for mitigating natural hazards, (ii) productive farmers and flexible waged labourers, and (iii) custodians of the environment. This creates a triple-bind for smallholders which has forced huge numbers to migrate from their mountain dwellings with unsustainable outcomes. Exploring local perspectives re-politicises the debate, exposing the contradictions and tensions of the gaze and the broader systemic issues of power and inequity the gaze overlooks. Such insights are crucial for rendering development policies more relevant to mountain residents of the CIH and beyond.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2021 08:31
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2021 15:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/102681

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