The political ecology of the Ganges River (PhD Flore Lafaye de Micheaux)

I’m proud to announce the successful public thesis defence of Dr. Flore Lafaye de Micheaux, the first of my Lausanne doctoral students to finish.  The issue that guides and motivates Flore’s thesis is a shift in how the Indian government approached the environmental governance of the Ganges River, notably the Namami Ganga program of prime minister Narendra Modi.  From a need to clean a polluted river, the problem became one of saving a landscape, a deity, and the nation. 

Flore celebrates with her thesis jury: René Véron (internal expert), Torsten Venneman (chair), and myself (supervisor). External experts Priya Rangan (Melbourne) and Jamie Linton (Limoges) participated in the private defence earlier.

Taking her inspiration from this observation, Flore has crafted an ambitious thesis that tackles two broad sets of questions.  The first set asks how public policy has identified the Ganges River as an object of intervention, how this problem has been made visible, and how it has shifted over time, notably in the context of this highly symbolic and ‘holy’ river.  The second set of questions tackles the theoretical underpinnings of various approaches to understanding rivers as socio-natural hybrids.  In particular, Flore addresses recent literature developing the idea of a hydrosocial cycle, and investigates the place of materiality (like sediments) on the one hand, and meanings, emotions, and symbols on the other hand, in the hydrosocial approach. 

As part of the thesis, Flore has produced four articles:

  • Lafaye de Micheaux, F, J Mukherjee & CA Kull (2018) When hydrosociality encounters sediments: Transformed lives and livelihoods in the lower basin of the Ganges River. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 1 (4):641-663. link.
  • Lafaye de Micheaux, F., & Kull, C. A. (2016). Vers une « géographie environnementale » des fleuves : rapprocher political ecology et mésologie? . Géo-regards 9, 97-117. online site link to pdf
  • Lafaye de Micheaux Flore, 2019. Politicizations of a sacred river: the story of Gaumukh Uttarkashi Eco-Sensitive Zone, Uttarakhand, India. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 13 (2). link  
  • Lafaye de Micheaux, F & C Kull (2020) Combining political ecology and “mésologie” for a new geography of rivers? Ecology, Economy and Society—the INSEE Journal 3 (2):149-160. [English version of Géo-regards 2016 article].  link with pdf

Congratulations to Flore for her excellent work!

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