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Hydropower, relocation and tourism : Xinfengjiang Reservoir and the politics of environmentalism in Northeast Guangdong Province, China

Authors Ou, Donghong
Issue Date 2003
Summary Since the construction of the Xinfengliang hydropower station in 1958, the fate of the relocatees spread over Northeast Guangdong Province has been closely linked to the ever-changing environmental ideology of the Chinese state, transforming from "conquering nature" in the Mao era, to "exploiting nature" in Deng's economic reform, to "preserving nature" in tourism development currently. Twenty years of constant relocations had greatly broken down former social groups among the relocatees and left no basis for constructing a stable social structure in the community of Xingang, a transportation center developed on the edge of the reservoir. The recent development of tourism business further reinforced the economic independence of individual households, shaping Xingang into a loosely organized community with little cohesion, consensus, and solidarity. The gradually developed collective identity of "Xingang people" serves not to protest against the state policies of relocation but to legitimatize their unsanctioned settlement. This thesis argues that environmental discourses change throughout history and local response to current environmental issues needs to be understood as a cumulative effect of past human-nature interactions shaped under specific historical and socio-political contexts. While many previous studies focus on how environmental movements in China were communally organized with reference to collective social memory, the Xingang case of reservoir relocatees' struggles for resettlement reminds us that not all the "victim" communities have the social and political conditions to organize collective mobilization. This thesis provides an insight for understanding the kind of "victim" communities that lack the basis needed to develop a collective social memory for mass mobilization, and thus respond to environmental issues by means of personal social networks largely based on shattered personal memories about the original home place and in terms of personal interests defined in current socio-economic context.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2003
Language English
Format Thesis
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