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from a few more examples grounded in interviews and opinions from individuals living in proposed or existing protected areas. This minor shortcoming aside, Corson’s critical and deeply historicized analysis of environmental policy in Madagascar affords readers unique insight into processes often shrouded in secrecy. Some of the more important financial and political decisions, as Corson points out, were negotiated behind closed doors or informally between strategically positioned actors. Corson’s work is detailed, pulling from an impressive number of interviews and archival sources. As a result, this book will be the definitive source on Madagascar’s conservation aid history for years to come. Boer, Ben, Philip Hirsh, Fleur Johns, Ben Saul, and Natalia Scurrah. 2016. The Mekong: A Socio-Legal Approach to River Basin Development. New York: Routledge. Reviewed by Joshua C. Gellers University of North Florida How is law deployed, understood, and (re)produced by actors operating in, around, and far afield from the Mekong river basin (MRB)? How does revealing the plurality of legal and governance structures at work in this area offer greater clarity regarding the sources of, and solutions to, transboundary water conflicts? In The Mekong: A Socio-Legal Approach to River Basin Development, Ben Boer and an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Australian universities respond to these queries in a brilliantly singular voice through an impressively comprehensive charting of regional riparian legal undercurrents. Using a socio-legal lens, the book drills down to great depths to uncover the unsettled and complex nature of water governance in four of the states that make up the lower MRB—Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. These main cases join with case studies of interstate “dam suites” (p. 36) to showcase the cross-cutting applications of law and sources of legal influence at varying levels of governance. This ethnographic effort includes more than fifty in-depth interviews , with actors ranging from villagers to representatives from NGOs to highlevel decision-makers in business and government. At its heart, The Mekong seeks to challenge the conventional wisdom that development along the river requires progressive adherence to hard law. As the authors amply demonstrate, the manifestations of and directions taken by law in the MRB are as varied and tortuous as the river itself. The book begins with a thorough geographic overview of the Mekong and its riparian neighbors. Here also the authors introduce actors, institutions, and interests found along the river, characterized as elements in a metaphorical drama. The authors also describe an analytical framework that arrays law along the hard/soft and international/regional/national/subnational dimensions. They describe the book’s purpose as not to empirically reveal law’s shortcomings, but rather to challenge the assumptions that more law is needed to manage complex Joshua C. Gellers • 149 issues in the region and that law can produce consistent outcomes. An additional historical primer urges the reader to consider context when evaluating the trajectory taken by law, a strategy that helps explain why changes in the law “have had mixed and unpredictable results” (p. 85). The latter section of the book constitutes the analytical proving ground for the socio-legal approach. In line with the authors’ pluralist portrayal of the law, this part of the book focuses on technico-legal aspects of governance in the MRB—an intergovernmental institution (the Mekong River Commission), an environmental regulatory process (environmental assessment), and a democratic norm (transparency). The diversity of the arenas explored illustrates the ability of socio-legal analysis to span geographic scales and levels of abstraction . Each chapter in this section offers a compelling and extensive assessment of a particular socio-legal domain relevant to the Mekong that scholars can appreciate for its individual merits. The Mekong closes with several summarized “contributions and displacements ” (p. 188) emanating from the preceding analysis. The authors reiterate their earlier declarations: law in the MRB is complex, ever-present in social life, unreliable, and forged creatively and unexpectedly out of local experience and foreign influence. Despite its great depth, the book suffers from a couple of acute shortcomings . First, it scarcely moves the ball forward with respect to theory. While the authors make passing mention of Michel Foucault’s governmentality...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1536-0091
Print ISSN
1526-3800
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-10
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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