Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

4 - Ecological Precarity and Geological Expertise in the Anthropocene

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Thurgood Marshall North, Mezzanine

This paper examines increasing earthquakes/landslides and state-led infrastructural development in the Eastern Himalayan region to illustrate the role of scientific expertise in governing disasters in postcolonial spaces. Hydropower and ancillary infrastructure are meant to usher in modernity and progress to the geographic and cognitive margins of the Indian state. However, this infrastructural development has come alongside a dramatic rise in natural hazard events like flash floods and earthquakes. Sikkim, a small Eastern Himalayan state in India, has 30 dams planned and underway on its Teesta River. In 2011, Sikkim was jolted by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake whose epicenter was located eerily close to an under-construction dam. I draw on materialist and postcolonial scholars and debates around decolonizing the Anthropocene, placing them in conversation with interviews from regional geologists in Sikkim, whose expertise is called upon for both disaster prevention and infrastructural development in the region. Geological science and expertise has played a central role in Anthropocene debates, drawing attention to humanity’s destructive impacts but the same knowledge and expertise, has also contributed to the historical and ongoing exploitation of mineral resources and fossil fuels both in the Global South and North. I place the Himalayan region at the center of this conversation on decolonial approaches to the Anthropocene and reflect on the history of geology as a colonial discipline in South Asia.

Mabel Denzin Gergan

Georgetown University, District of Columbia

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