Capitalizing on Compensation: Hydropower Resettlement and the Commodification and Decommodification of Nature–Society Relations in Southern Laos

TitleCapitalizing on Compensation: Hydropower Resettlement and the Commodification and Decommodification of Nature–Society Relations in Southern Laos
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsW. Green N, Baird IG
Secondary TitleAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Volume106
Issue4
Pagination853-873
Publication Languageeng
Key themesConversion-FoodSecurity, Dispossession-grabbing, FDI, Formalisation-titling
Abstract

Compensation programs for hydropower dam resettlement have far-reaching effects, including restructuring nature–society relations in support of capital accumulation. Although critical scholarship has shown the structural limitations of compensation programs for reducing poverty after resettlement, here we draw on the specific case of the Xepian-Xenamnoy hydroelectric dam project in the Xekong River Basin in southern Laos to explore the transformation of nature–society relations among the Heuny people. We argue that the compensation processes of valuation, abstraction, and privatization of property relations have contributed to the variegated commodification of land and other natural resources used by the Heuny. In contrast to arguments that capitalist expansion leads to ever increasing commodification, however, we demonstrate that compensation variously decommodifies other natural resources, such as certain nontimber forest products and wild fisheries, keeping other things, such as swidden fields and forest land, noncommodified. Moreover, these processes of variegated commodification are spatially variable, largely dependent on Heuny conceptions of space, thus affecting the commodification of land and other natural resources. Ultimately, by linking compensation to processes of (de)- commodification in its various forms, we suggest new ways in which capitalist social relations are being transformed and expanded through hydropower-induced resettlement. Furthermore, we call into question the ability of material compensation to restore previous livelihood and environmental conditions, as changes brought on by the compensation process itself have much deeper and profound implications when it comes to nature–society relations.

URLhttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/24694452.2016.1146570
Availability

Copyrighted journal article

Countries

Laos

Document Type

Journal Article