Building Back Better in India: Development, NGOs, and Artisanal Fishers after the 2004 Tsunami

Author:   Raja Swamy
Publisher:   The University of Alabama Press
ISBN:  

9780817320973


Pages:   232
Publication Date:   29 June 2021
Format:   Hardback
Availability:   Not yet available   Availability explained
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Building Back Better in India: Development, NGOs, and Artisanal Fishers after the 2004 Tsunami


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Overview

Critically examines the role of humanitarian aid and disaster reconstruction Building Back Better in India: Development, NGOs, and Artisanal Fishers after the 2004 Tsunami addresses the ways in which natural disasters impact the strategies and priorities of neoliberalizing states in the contemporary era. In the light of growing scholarly and public concern over 'disaster capitalism' and the tendency of states and powerful international financial institutions to view disasters as 'opportunities' to 'build back better,' Raja Swamy offers an ethnographically rich account of post-disaster reconstruction, its contested aims, and the mixed outcomes of state policy, humanitarian aid, and local resistance. Using the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as a case study, Swamy investigates the planning and implementation of a reconstruction process that sought to radically transform the geography of a coastal district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Drawing on an ethnographic study conducted in Tamil Nadu's Nagapattinam District, Swamy shows how and why the state-led, multilaterally financed, and NGO-mediated reconstruction prioritized the displacement of coastal fisher populations. Exploring the substantive differences shaping NGO action, specifically in response to core political questions affecting the well-being of their ostensible beneficiaries, this account also centers the political agency of disaster survivors and their allies among NGOs in contesting the meanings of recovery while navigating the process of reconstruction. If humanitarian aid brought together NGOs and fishers as givers and recipients of aid, it also revealed in its workings competing and sometimes contradictory assumptions, goals, interests, and strategies driving the fraught historical relationship between artisanal fishers and the state. Importantly, this research foregrounds the ambiguous role of NGOs involved in the distribution of aid, as well as the agency and strategic actions of the primary recipients of aid-the fishers of Nagapattinam-as they struggled with a reconstruction process that made receipt of the humanitarian gift of housing conditional on the formal abandonment of all claims to the coast. Building Back Better in India thus bridges scholarly concerns with disasters, humanitarianism, and economic development with those focused on power, agency, and resistance.

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Author:   Raja Swamy
Publisher:   The University of Alabama Press
Imprint:   The University of Alabama Press
ISBN:  

9780817320973


ISBN 10:   0817320970
Pages:   232
Publication Date:   29 June 2021
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Professional & Vocational
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Availability:   Not yet available   Availability explained
This item is yet to be released. You can pre-order this item and we will dispatch it to you upon its release.

Table of Contents

List of Figures Preface Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction: Building Back Better Part I. Nagapattinam Chapter 1. The Tsunami of 2004 and Its Aftermath Chapter 2. Artisanal Fishers, the State, and an NGO Part II. The Politics of Humanitarianism Chapter 3. NGO Antipolitics and Politics Chapter 4. The Humanitarian Gift Economy Part III. Economic Development and Humanitarian Aid Chapter 5. Unbridging the Future: Connectivity and Distance Chapter 6. Memory, Space, and Power Conclusion Glossary Notes Bibliography Index

Reviews

One of the books of the year in 2013 was Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave, a haunting memoir of utter loss after the 2004 Tsunami. Raja Swamy's Building Back Better in India is its complement. Through grassroots analysis and rigorous analysis, Swamy shows the long term horror of disaster capitalism. This probing inquiry into regimes of non-governmental regimes of governance, and the neoliberalism embedded in modern philanthropy, should be required reading for anyone involved in disaster relief. --Raj Patel, coauthor of A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet The day after Christmas, 2004 a tsunami annihilated thousands in the fishing communities of a coastal area of southern India. Mostly self-sufficient, they were not heavy contributors to the GDP so the government and NGOs had a blank slate to incorporate the area into the global neoliberal economy with a port and a tourist destination based on a long forgotten 17th century Danish colonial outpost. Brick houses inland would replace the flimsy structures people had built with local materials. But people would have to renounce any claims to land along the seashore so ' . . . the desire to remake shattered lives on the coast came into conflict with a reconstruction plan that demanded their eviction.' Three years later, anthropologist Raja Swamy has assessed the result in Building Back Better in India. It is a complex story of relations among NGOs, layers of government, local people, and distant masters and markets. This book can help us understand how the responses to the 2020 COVID-19 set the interests of the powerful and wealthy over all others while telling us that our own well-being is central. The book is a timely story of disaster capitalism in action. --Paul Durrenberger, coauthor of Paradigms for Anthropology: An Ethnographic Reader After the 2004 tsunami in South India, reconstruction efforts leveraged the humanitarian gift of inland housing to relocate the artisanal fishing population and privatize the coastal commons. But the task of securing a spatial fix for capital accumulation failed. With keen ethnographic insight, Swamy shows how fishers sustained their claim to coastal life and livelihood while transforming humanitarian gifts into assets. Challenging assumptions about its depoliticizing and disciplining effects, he argues for humanitarianism as a contested process that can reset the contours of economy and politics. --Ajantha Subramanian, author of The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India This rich, multi-level ethnography brings together a rich ethnography of a fishing community in India, with the largely separate literatures of humanitarianism, disaster studies and development studies, and offers new ways to help poor communities to remain political agents in the face of the forces of neo-liberalism. --Arjun Appadurai, author of India's World: The Politics of Creativity in a Globalized Society


After the 2004 tsunami in South India, reconstruction efforts leveraged the humanitarian gift of inland housing to relocate the artisanal fishing population and privatize the coastal commons. But the task of securing a spatial fix for capital accumulation failed. With keen ethnographic insight, Swamy shows how fishers sustained their claim to coastal life and livelihood while transforming humanitarian gifts into assets. Challenging assumptions about its depoliticizing and disciplining effects, he argues for humanitarianism as a contested process that can reset the contours of economy and politics. - Ajantha Subramanian, author of The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India This rich, multi-level ethnography brings together a rich ethnography of a fishing community in India, with the largely separate literatures of humanitarianism, disaster studies and development studies, and offers new ways to help poor communities to remain political agents in the face of the forces of neo-liberalism. - Arjun Appadurai, author of India's World: The Politics of Creativity in a Globalized Society


Author Information

Raja Swamy is assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Learn more at www.bbbindia.org.

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