Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor in Environment, Department of Geography and Environment, Cornell University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Development Sociology, Cornell University
Big Shrimp, Rising Waters: Development, Dispossession, and Resistance in Southern Bangladesh

Over the past two decades, Bangladesh's coastal Khulna district has been subject to dramatic social and ecological transformations, from the violent land grabbing associated with an industrial shrimp boom in the 1980s, to a major influx of development aid in recent years in response to what is increasingly presented as the region's biggest problem: climate change. Often described as the world's most vulnerable country to climate change, concern is growing steadily over the threat of rising waters in the Bay of Bengal to low-lying coastal communities in this deltic plain. There is no question that the geographical landscape is changing dramatically, but there is also little agreement as to the nature of ongoing transformations. Agendas for how changes in the landscape should be addressed are thus producing tension in one of Bangladesh's most vulnerable regions. Donors and development agencies have responded to the threat of climate change through market-based solutions centered on discourses of adaptation and "social business." This new development paradigm shapes the ways in which the landscape is understood, managed, and transformed. This developmentalism, however, has not gone unchallenged. Communities are using a variety of strategies to resist dispossession, from restoring the use of traditional seeds (and the establishment of seed banks for their preservation) to direct agitation through democratic and sometimes even violent means. Bangladesh's industrial shrimp aquaculture industry, the discourses that have shaped it, the social and ecological changes that have accompanied it, and the movements that have resisted it, offer a window into exploring these dynamics and their particular relevance for rural communities today. In order to understand these dynamics, I explore the material and discursive production of this new paradigm, the direct and indirect modes of dispossession it engenders, and finally the modes of resistance that are being generated in response.