Modernisation, Technologies et Innovations
Chair/Président: Y-Dang Troeung, University of British Columbia
Discussant/Intervenant: Y-Dang Troeung, University of British Columbia
Political institutionalization is often seen as a positive or encouraging development that serves public interest (Huntington 1968, 24; Moe 2005, 215). But the political institution is also a power structure that enables particular actors to gain agenda control for their own gain (Moe 2005, 215–216). Institutionalization without a set goal of serving the common good might serve private interests and neglect public interests. Malaysia has long been reputed as one of the most institutionalized party-states in the developing world (Slater 2003, 81). Its functional bureaucratic institution and procedural democratic institution have provided for national order and stability. However, decades of single-party domination in the country has also laid the foundation for authoritarian rule. As a result of concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s role and the development of state capitalism, institutionalization in Malaysia tends to reinforce despotic power instead of constraining it (ibid.). Such a political development has a profound effect on environmental decision-making, as seen in the case of the Bakun hydroelectric dam (which spans from the 1980s to 2010) in which government machineries and government-linked entities were manipulated to ensure the fulfilment of the Prime Minister’s ambition to bring the project to fruition. This shows institutionalization in the sense of expanding organizational, legal, and procedural orders alone is inadequate to protect the environment and safeguard environmental justice. Instead, the development of political institutions must entail the pursuit of the public interest, if ecological modernization is desired.
This presentation will draw on the results from my master’s research on community-based riverine governance in the Ngao River Basin of Northern Thailand. The Thai state’s environmental governance regime is typically known for its history of marginalization and displacement of local people. However, this governance regime is juxtaposed by the unique form of community-based governance in the Ngao River Basin created by local Sgaw Karen or Pga K'nyau (referred to as “Karen” hereafter) people. My study seeks to better understand the emergence of a grassroots-level river conservation initiative, which has scaled up to more than 50 communities, in this river basin. This case deserves attention due to the apparent successes at restoring ecological health and ensuring food security for local people. Both Karen people and the Thai state discursively use conservation to justify their management of land and resources. However, both sides mobilize a much different conception of conservation that is founded in their differing relations with the environment and ontologies. Thus, the struggle for land and resources in the Ngao river basin is also a struggle over the legitimacy of these human environment relations and ontologies. Scholarship on the impacts of the politics of conservation on communities in Southeast Asia has typically focused on forest governance, or, in the context of rivers, on the “top-down” impacts of hydropower development. This presentation will explore how community-based riverine governance as a distinct collective from that of forests opens up new possibilities for marginalized communities in their struggles for more self-determination.
In many quarters and due to the urgency of the climate and disaster crisis, science is now being touted as a benign force coming to the rescue. In an earlier era, the science-policy interface came from the need to increase food, energy, and water productivity through scientific research and technology diffusion, alongside engineering appropriate infrastructure to meet these purposes. In recent years, climate information, mapping techniques, and forecasts are deemed critical for climate change adaptation and disaster risk management. All of these efforts are designed to make climate change more intelligible and manageable.
This paper responds to present challenges principally from feminist political ecology and STS perspectives that specifically aim to unpack how science “lands” in policy environments setting in motion “messy” power dynamics that are often ignored but are key to producing particular outcomes with their reality-producing effects. This discussion is not intended to undervalue the role of science or scientific inquiry, rather it aims to examine how society engages and relates with science in climate change contexts, building on the foundational premise that science is intrinsically socially created. I then argue that the interface between science and policy is not only a site of power but where hierarchized and gendered subjects emerge and are shaped.
The paper will present examples from Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia) to demonstrate how adaptation (and also mitigation), as currently conceptualized and practised, are often disentangled from the everyday lives of women and men from different social groups.
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