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Defying Displacement

Grassroots Resistance and the Critique of Development

By Anthony Oliver-Smith

Publication Year: 2010

The uprooting and displacement of people has long been among the hardships associated with development and modernity. Indeed, the circulation of commodities, currency, and labor in modern society necessitates both social and spatial mobility. However, the displacement and resettlement of millions of people each year by large-scale infrastructural projects raises serious questions about the democratic character of the development process. Although designed to spur economic growth, many of these projects leave local people struggling against serious impoverishment and gross violations of human rights. Working from a political-ecological perspective, Anthony Oliver-Smith offers the first book to document the fight against involuntary displacement and resettlement being waged by people and communities around the world. Increasingly over the last twenty-five years, the voices of people at the grass roots are being heard. People from many societies and cultures are taking action against development-forced displacement and resettlement (DFDR) and articulating alternatives. Taking the promise of democracy seriously, they are fighting not only for their place in the world, but also for their place at the negotiating table, where decisions affecting their well-being are made.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-ix

I first became aware of the importance of place in peoples’ lives and the tenacity with which they generally resist being uprooted not in the context of a development project, but in the aftermath of a disaster of enormous proportions. In May of 1970, a huge earthquake devastated an area in the north...

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pp. x-xi

If one pursues a project over a certain number of years, in this case close to ten, the list of people that have contributed to the final product can be quite long. Almost as long can be the list of ways that people have helped, sometimes without realizing it, ranging from providing places to stay to great...

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Chapter One. Disasters of Development: Development Forced Displacement and Resettlement

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pp. 1-41

At the end of the twentieth century, following the collapse of its socialist challenger, the dominant Western model of development stood triumphant as the guide to improving human welfare. However, even as the socialist model began its precipitous decline, alternative interpretations of development had...

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Chapter Two. Understanding Resistance: Combating the Violence of Development

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pp. 42-83

The rights, claims, and aspirations of people who resist uprooting by development projects are as multidimensional and complex as the projects that threaten them. The kinds of projects that displace people and communities defy easy categorization. Such projects range from the truly gigantic, such as...

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Chapter Three. The People in the Way

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pp. 84-104

About the only characteristic the displaced have in common, apart from their humanity, is that they are in the way of someone else’s plans for development. The politics of displacement and resettlement, no matter whether in a working-class neighborhood in Boston, a peasant village in the Andes, or a...

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Chapter Four. Contested Landscapes: Development, Ecological Upheaval, and Resistance

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pp. 105-131

At one level, all resistance to DFDR constitutes one side of an environmental conflict. Resistance is a rejection of an attempt by certain interests to transform an environment in some way that requires the displacement of people. As such, environmental conflict is at the center of grassroots and NGO resis-...

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Chapter Five. Challenging the Economics of Displacement: Evaluating Risks and Compensating Losses

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pp. 132-162

Particularly in the developing world, where communities have been less dissolved into clusters of atomized economic actors, resistance to DFDR challenges the way states, multilaterals, and corporations do business. In many instances, resistance by communities subverts the individualistic economic...

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Chapter Six. The Lake of Memory: Cultural Discourses of Resistance

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pp. 163-188

There is a barely hidden cultural politics in many development projects that seeks to further a general expansion of the control of the state over local territories and people (J. Scott, 1998). In extending its physical control over territory, the state also strives to impose a process of standardization and sim-...

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Chapter Seven. Confronting Goliath: The Politics of DFDR Resistance

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pp. 189-232

In the final analysis, all the disputes between the state, private interests, and people threatened with displacement by development projects—disputes over economic issues, environmental problems, cultural violations, and social conflicts— end up being contested in the domain of the political. However, the...

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Chapter Eight. The Risks and Results of Resistance to Resettlement

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pp. 233-257

Just as any action produces a reaction, resistance to DFDR produces concrete outcomes. Regardless of whether the resistance succeeds or fails in halting displacement or at least improving resettlement, there are other outcomes that bring consequences for the community or region that has confronted the...


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pp. 259-281


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pp. 283-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780292792869
E-ISBN-10: 0292792867
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292717633
Print-ISBN-10: 0292717636

Page Count: 303
Illustrations: 19 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 667274137
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Defying Displacement

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Land settlement.
  • Protest movements.
  • Forced migration.
  • Infrastructure (Economics) -- Social aspects -- Statistics.
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