Irrigationalism – the politics and ideology of irrigation development in the Nam Songkhram Basin, Northeast Thailand

Blake, David (2012) Irrigationalism – the politics and ideology of irrigation development in the Nam Songkhram Basin, Northeast Thailand. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The principal drivers of modern irrigation development in tropical Asia are widely understood to be political economy related factors such as demographics, changing diets, international food prices, globalization, urbanization, national food and energy policies, and increasingly, climate change. Such standard drivers of change tend to dominate mainstream water resources development discourse, embedded in instrumental and functional modes of thought and practice. Contrary to the dominant tendency in professional irrigation literature to rely on engineering or managerialist paradigms to conceptualize the field of water resources development, this thesis takes as its starting point an inherent recognition of the political and ideological nature of irrigation development, seen as an organizational tool for state control of people, society and water. This study is concerned with understanding the exercise of power and authority in societal irrigation development, through the analysis of a complex, cross-scalar, multi-actor case study in the context of Thailand, conceived of as an exemplar of a modern hydraulic society.
Examining a single river basin case study (the Nam Songkhram) in Thailand’s marginal Northeast and based on a mixed methods, inter-disciplinary approach, the empirical evidence suggests that a number of powerful actor groups in society, including hydraulic bureaucracies, the military, the private sector, national politicians and the monarchy, form alliances or “strategic groups” that compete to control the process of irrigation development at multiple scales and draw upon a range of material practices and discursive processes to further their individual and collective interests. The research contends that irrigation development is justified by socially constructed narrative framings located within the cultural and historical milieu of Thailand, understood to form part of a resilient and rather static nationalist-linked ideology (termed irrigationalism), employed in the reproduction and outward expansion of state power from the Bangkok-centric core to the periphery.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of International Development
Depositing User: Users 2259 not found.
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2014 13:11
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2014 13:11

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