Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Sociology, Johns Hopkins University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, University of California / Berkeley
From Dams to Special Economic Zones: The Changing Political Economy of Dispossession in India

Through a comparative study of land dispossession for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and large dams in India, my research asks: what is distinct about the character, distributional consequences, and politics of primitive accumulation under neoliberalism compared with state-led development? I define primitive accumulation as the use of extra-economic power to wrest productive resources from non- or minimally capitalist agrarian producers, and I argue that it is central to India's modernization project, from the developmental state to neoliberalism. I consider large dams and SEZ to be the emblematic forms of primitive accumulation under these respective social formations. My research will analyze the differences in primitive accumulation in India between state-led development and neoliberalism. My dissertation will compare the Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Dam in Madhya Pradesh to an SEZ in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. I will test three claims regarding the different character, distributional consequences, and politics of primitive accumulation in each site: 1) Compared to dams, primitive accumulation for SEZs is more speculative than productive and creates "jobless" growth; 2) SEZs enclave development, intensifying rural inhabitants' marginality and forsaking the Nehruvian ambition of modernizing the countryside. This enclavization, combined with the speculative character of SEZs, produces what I call "dispossession without development." 3) As a result, the India government is finding it difficult to produce consent for SEZs, resulting in more widespread and successful resistance to SEZs than was the case for large dams.