Dams and Development
Transnational Struggles for Water and Power
Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 2004
ONCE A LARGE-SCALE DAME is in place — the Hoover Dam, for example — it can be difficult to imagine any other reality. Immense, solid, and impressive, a dam alters the landscape with such finality and power that it becomes an irrefutable fact of its environment. A uniquely 20th century phenomenon, 90 percent of big dams were built in the past 40 years. Yet these massive projects don’t pop up over night, and in recent years, some of those directly affected or displaced by a dam’s construction — many of them among the world’s poorest populations — have chosen to raise their voices in objection to this particular path of progress.
In Dams and Development, Kennedy School Professor Sanjeev Khagram gives an on-the-ground account of the political dynamics surrounding big dam development around the world. Drawing on extensive data and more than 300 field interviews conducted in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Portuguese, and Spanish, with participants ranging from indigenous peoples to industrialists, Khagram examines the slowdown that has occurred only recently in big dam construction and what it reveals about the political economy of development in general.
Recent history demonstrates that nongovernmental organizations, grassroots groups, and social movements can create change regardless of borders, observes Khagram, citing organizations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International. That development, coupled with the gradual, worldwide acceptance of norms and principles in the areas of the environment, human rights, and indigenous peoples, further bolsters the possibility for successful opposition to big dam construction. Such was the case with India’s Narmada Projects, a colossal undertaking that was put on hold in 1993, after a grassroots campaign forced the World Bank to submit to an independent review that was highly critical of the project.
“…big dams are activities and symbols that reflect, are conditioned by, and shape larger dynamics of development, dynamics that are transnational in nature,” Khagram writes. Studying the cross-border political activity and shifts in power surrounding dams and development can also open up new explorations into other, equally revealing transnational issues, such as terrorism, migration, and financial flows. As the world becomes increasingly complex, the simple need to make sense of its patterns of power grows more and more pressing. By using dams as a window of inquiry, Khagram offers an illuminating new perspective on democracy, development, and the unexpected ability of ordinary people to create change. — JH
The Story of Possibility
The idea for Dams and Development grew out of his longtime interest in civil engineering projects and a 1993 trip to India, says Sanjeev Khagram. While conducting research on a different topic, Khagram found himself in the midst of a powerful social movement that
succeeded in halting construction of India’s Narmada Projects.
“There was a sense of elation in villages everywhere — the impact was felt across the country and around the world,” he recalls. “I had to find out how these tribal groups and poor farmers had won against the World Bank.”
The conflict over whether or not a dam is built goes beyond the struggle over physical territory to encompass larger philosophical and cultural questions that challenge accepted definitions of particular words, Khagram adds. Dams are often seen as equivalent to development — but development has different meanings in different contexts.
Khagram hopes his readers will come away with a belief in the power of even the most
disenfranchised groups to challenge larger, more dominant entities. “Through human agency, what seems impossible can become possible, then probable, then a given,” he says. “This book is the story of possibility.”
Despite the Odds
The Contentious Politics of Education Reform
Princeton University Press
Princeton, NJ, 2004
During the 1990s, 12 countries in Latin America introduced important changes in national education policies, despite significant political opposition and lukewarm support for reform. In a new book that examines how and why this unexpected outcome occurred, Kennedy School Professor Merilee Grindle examines the political dynamics that make alternative policy choices a real possibility.
Grindle does not take a stand on the merits of proposed changes in education policy; instead, she delves into the strategies used by reformers and their opposition in order to illuminate the process by which change can occur despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Grindle unpacks the policy process in a behind-the-scenes analysis of the give-and-take between teachers unions, politicians, parents, and administrators.
Beyond Reconstruction in Afghanistan
Lessons from Development Experience
John Montgomery and Dennis Rondinelli, editors
New York, NY, 2004
Why do some nation-building efforts succeed while others fail? Drawing on lessons from 50 years of past experience with postconflict reconstruction around the world, the 12 essays in
this collection look to the past while assessing ongoing development plans in a country torn apart by years of conflict and poverty. Co-edited by Kennedy School Professor John Montgomery, Beyond Reconstruction in Afghanistan offers a roadmap drawn from the successes and failures of past international aid efforts that also recognizes the unique demands posed by Afghanistan.
As they examine the country’s social, economic, and political environment, each author looks at what it will take to develop a future Afghan society that is both peaceful and productive. While a situation as dire as Afghanistan’s demands an immediate response, it also requires a thoughtful look to the past, argues Montgomery — to do any less risks the success of foreign aid projects and, more important, the future of the Afghan people.
Local and Global in Environmental Governance
Sheila Jasanoff and Marybeth Long Martello, editors
The MIT Press
Cambridge, MA, 2004
Globalization’s spread is symbolized by more than the presence of Burger King in Bangkok. Its influence on the environment transcends markets to encompass the air we breathe and the water we drink. The field of science and technology studies provides the “intellectual backbone” for the essays included in Earthly Politics, writes Kennedy School Professor Sheila Jasanoff; but perspectives from a wide range of disciplines are also brought to bear on this complex, emotional issue.
Jasanoff proposes a holistic approach to environmental governance that resists the tendency to equate “global” with progress or inevitability and “local” with tradition or resistance. “The turn to local knowledge seems to make room…for more fragmented and
multiple visions of what is wrong with the environment…and above all what should be done about perceived harms and threats,” she writes. Whether the focus is the World Bank or the Makah tribe’s whaling culture, each essay examines the relationship between knowledge and power and its role in creating new frameworks of effective global governance.
Earth System Analysis for Sustainability
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Paul Crutzen, William Clark, Martin Claussen, and Hermann Held, editors
The MIT Press
Cambridge, MA, 2004
What does the future hold for life on Earth? In a series of problem-solving sessions known as the Dahlem Workshops, an international, interdisciplinary group analyzes the driving forces behind global change and uses their findings to propose principles for sound stewardship. Co-edited by Kennedy School Professor William Clark, the book’s contributors build on the perception of our planet as a complex, unpredictable system and explore the impact of human factors, such as greenhouse gases and population growth, on climate stability.
“History has shown that humanity will not discover a pathway toward sustainability by accident,” the book’s editors conclude. “A conscious awareness of civilization’s present and possible future trajectories as well as a conscious effort toward continuous learning and course correction is necessary.”