Environmentalism in China and India: a comparative analysis of people and politics in two coal capitals

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Wu, Pin-Hsien (2015)
  • Subject: HC0079.E5

This dissertation presents the results of an interdisciplinary environmental study that focuses on the formation of environmental discourse at the grassroots level of society. Case studies on the ‘Coal Capitals’ in Guizhou of China and Jharkhand of India were conducted in order to examine the question: why do people appear to react in different ways when encountering environmental problems, such as those caused by mining? This thesis investigates how the environment – and the participation space for discussing it – has been socio-culturally, historically and politically defined in the two countries. It is one of the few initiatives to have assessed environmental development issues based on comparative literature reviews and empirical fieldwork in coal villages in China and India. It has critically examined the literature related to the two locations studied by encompassing environmental governance, political discourses and historical studies about environmental development, media productions and daily life conversations about the environment.\ud \ud By examining the representations of environmentalism in the Chinese and Indian cases, this study deals with different dynamics of discourse construction in the two societies – including the power of the state, the influences of media and social elites, and the emergence of grassroots movements. The investigation of the interactions between these dynamics enhances our understanding of, on the one hand, the social settings of the two Coal Capitals in the two countries, and, on the other hand, the relationship between nature and the people, especially those with limited social and economic resources. By bringing in the voices of the marginalised social groups, this thesis adds to a growing body of research on the diversity of environmentalism within developing countries. In particular, the analysis helps explain how popular environmentalism and the concept of environmental participation in India and China have become recognised differently, in the discussions created by researchers and media commentators in conjunction with actors with power in the state machinery.
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