Repoliticizing Development: Tracing Spatial Technology in the Rural Development Landscape of South India
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This dissertation is an ethnography that develops a situated understanding of the trend of privileging remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as planning tools in rural development in India. While these tools are actively propagated by the State, I argue that the proclaimed power of these tools is difficult to realize in practice. In order to understand the ambiguities of practice in spatial technology based rural development this dissertation provides insights from a semi-arid location in south India where an NGO employed these tools to create watershed development plans. Working at the boundaries of Critical Development Geography and Science and Technology Studies (STS), this research is informed by theories that pay attention to robust spatiality. The two main features of my approach are attention to processes as they take shape, and relationships between actors. I follow the translations and articulations amongst a range of actors such NGO staff, farmers, state officials, local traders, and soil and moisture. I identify, in this historical-geography of articulations, crucial moments that I call ‘movement’. It is these moments of ‘movement’ that demonstrate how actors use many objects to understand their world, and represent it. The central argument of this dissertation is that these moments of ‘movement’ allow us to understand the complexities in, and most importantly allow us to repoliticize technological and development practice, rather than assume they are inherently reductive and apolitical.
- Geography