SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

SSAI Seminar Programme

Decolonising Natural Resource Governance

Seminars sponsored by the SOAS South Asia Institute and co-organised by the Law, Environment and Development Centre, School of Law, SOAS 2019-2020

Extraction of natural resources in South Asia, including air, forests, land, minerals and water, has been a crucial aspect of the development paradigm for many decades. The colonial state relied on natural resources to sustain the colonial economy and the empire, in part through dispossession and disregard for existing rights of use and conservation. The focus was particularly on land through which the colonial state could access most resources, and land acquisition legislation played a central role in this regard. Post-independence, governments have maintained a grip over natural resources. This approach remains anchored in the same basic paradigm, despite a dramatic change in circumstances.

This is not to say that there have been no changes. The past couple of decades attest to massive changes in the governance of natural resources in the context of neo-liberal economic and policy reforms. At the same time, these changes that seek in principle to give much greater freedom to the private sector to exploit resources ‘efficiently’ remain linked to strong state intervention, as exemplified by India’s new land acquisition legislation where the role of the private sector is more directly acknowledged but where the state remains the central actor.

This seminar series seeks to explore mechanisms for decolonising natural resource governance in a context where modernisation and reforms of the past couple of decades have led to significant changes, such as the recognition of forest rights for forest-dependent people in India, but the bulk of the governance framework remains steeped in old thinking.

The seminar series hopes to examine the push towards change in governance frameworks resulting from subaltern studies that question the received wisdom of state intervention in resource governance along with discourses on mainstreaming community-led commons resource management. Further, in the context of the continued marginalisation in policy circles of discourses that eschew a centralised state interventionist model, the five seminars in the series will aim at mainstreaming and highlighting ways in which to entrench and build alternative discourses, while simultaneously questioning and testing  popular policy prescriptions that support the continuation of old structures (primarily colonial).

For further information contact the Institute.

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