Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-xii

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Prelude: Development Encounters in Religious Landscapes

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pp. xiii-2

This book explores conflict over development and conservation along a Himalayan stretch of the River Ganga (also known as the Ganges) in India’s Uttarakhand State. It focuses on competing discourses about change, including the transformations brought on by hydroelectric development...

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Introduction. Dams on the Ganga: Movements and Countermovements

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pp. 3-22

On August 26, 2010, I received an e-mail with the following subheading: “Historical Victory of FAITH and CULTURE.” The message referred to the Indian government’s decision to cancel a controversial dam that was being constructed along a Himalayan portion of the River...

Part I. Cultural Politics

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Interlude: Please Join Us

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pp. 25-27

August 8, 2007: “Do people in America think about Ganga?” The question draws me away from fiddling with my recording device, and I raise my head to meet the gaze of the Garhwali women sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of me. Looking into my questioner’s eyes, I sense that she is comfortable...

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1. Knowing the Ganga: How a River Is “Many Things”

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pp. 28-58

It is difficult, if not impossible, to capture the multiplicity of meanings attached to a water body such as the Ganga. The river is at once a flow of liquid nourishment, a potential purveyor of hydroelectricity, a source of personal solace, a cultural mother, and a living goddess. Sarita’s comments in...

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Interlude: Why Wouldn’t We Cry?

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pp. 59-62

April 26, 2009: In the early morning hours, a few dozen people gather in the center of Uttarkashi to embark on a journey to Gangotri, a pilgrimage town located 22 kilometers (15 miles) below the Ganga’s glacial source. Huddled together in the morning light and bundled against the spring chill, the sixty-some...

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2. Loving the Ganga: Semi-Urban Women and Religious Affect

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pp. 63-90

There are moments in fieldwork when everything suddenly comes into perspective. I had one such experience midway through my time in Uttarkashi. I was at home, typing up notes from the previous day of interviews, when someone called from below my second-story flat to announce...

Part II. Political Ecology

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Interlude: A Five-Minute Song

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pp. 93-95

June 9, 2009: An NGO known as Navdanya has organized a public event on climate change in Uttarkashi’s central market. Perhaps the biggest draw is the event’s main speaker, the internationally famous feminist, environmentalist, and organic food activist Dr. Vandana Shiva. She organized the meeting with her...

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3. Defending the Ganga: Mountain Women’s Activism

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pp. 96-123

Over the course of my fieldwork, I witnessed firsthand the impressive commitment that numerous mountain women demonstrated for the cause of defending the Ganga from dams. The presence of women in movement activities, however, did not mean that they were necessarily...

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Interlude: A Pro-Dam Rally

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pp. 124-127

August 27, 2009: All the shops closed early in the main market of Uttarkashi. The narrow, winding lanes that would normally be bustling with midday commerce are nearly deserted when I enter town. Only a handful of storekeepers work hurriedly to pack up and secure the sliding metal sheets that...

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4. Saving the Ganga: Insiders, Outsiders, and Activist Politics

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pp. 128-154

During the period of conflict over dams on the Ganga, a number of individuals and groups from the Indian plains traveled up to Uttarkashi District to meet with villagers, organize rallies, and conduct public events that either promoted or opposed the hydroelectric projects. Although...

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Interlude: Sarita Changes Tune

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pp. 155-158

August 23, 2012: It is early in the afternoon, and I have only just arrived at Sarita’s house to see how she and her husband feel about the canceled dams and the proposed creation of an Eco-Zone in their region. I haven’t seen them in over two years, not since my trip to Uttarkashi in May 2010 for the...

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5. Eco-Zones on the Ganga: The Politics of Exceptionalism

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pp. 159-187

On December 18, 2012, less than six months after the exchange documented in the preceding interlude, the government of India declared 4,180 square kilometers of the Bhagirathi Ganga’s flow an Ecologically Sensitive Zone or Eco-Zone under the Environmental Protection Act of...

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Epilogue: Development and Livelihoods in the Himalaya

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pp. 188-200

Framed around the notion of promoting “river dialogues,” this book examined what the Ganga means to different people living across a range of distinct geographical, socioeconomic, and religious domains of interaction. I focused on how some people see the role that hydroelectric development...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 201-204

River Dialogues grew out of a seed that many people helped water. I first and foremost express my gratitude to the people of the Garhwal Himalaya who shared their fears, their hopes, and their love for an entity named Ganga. The relationships I formed while living in places such...

Notes

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pp. 205-224

References

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pp. 225-250

Index

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pp. 251-258