Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Farhana Sultana


Brahmaputra Valley, Livelihoods, Natural Disasters, Political Ecology, Resistance and Social Movements, the State

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The twin processes of flooding and riverbank erosion have over the years re-shaped the Brahmaputra Valley landscape in the northeast Indian state of Assam. While flooding and erosion have always been part of the natural landscape of the valley, they have now turned disastrous causing agro-ecological instability and large-scale displacement of the local population. This dissertation is based on sixteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in different parts of Assam, with a special focus on Majuli River Island, located in the middle of the Brahmaputra River, and Rohmoria in the upstream. It examines the political ecological processes of the re-production of disastrous geographies in the Brahmaputra Valley, the ways in which disasters have transformed rural livelihoods, and the politics of resistance among the disaster-affected population in the valley. At the heart of the dissertation lies the question of the state. By combining Marxist and postcolonial theorizations of the state and paying special attention to hydraulic infrastructures, my research presents an in-depth analysis of the role of the Indian state in the making of hazardscapes in Assam, thereby advancing our understanding of the state, especially in the postcolonial context. The dissertation also foregrounds the question of popular resistance in the valley, demonstrating that disaster-affected communities are not mere victims of disasters but that they have political agencies, which they deploy, given the conducive circumstances, to re-shape environmental governance processes and the state in general. Throughout the study, I advance an analysis of the ways in which hazardscapes are produced through the multi-scalar interactions between political economic processes, state and non-state actors, and biophysical nature.


Open Access