Fluid dynamics: Water, knowledge, and power in the Mekong Delta

TitleFluid dynamics: Water, knowledge, and power in the Mekong Delta
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsGorman T
Secondary TitleJournal of Southeast Asian Studies
Key themesAgriculturalModernization, MigrationLabour

ABSTRACTED FROM THE FIRST TWO PARAGRAPHS: Over the past several years, the enormity of the environmental challenges facing the Mekong River Delta region of southern Vietnam has become increasingly clear. Climate change and dam construction on the upper reaches of the Mekong threaten to disrupt the flow of the river, making both droughts and floods ever more common. Meanwhile, the rapid intensification of rice agriculture in the Mekong Delta and the export-oriented cultivation of farmed fish and shrimp have increasingly strained. These four books — all volumes in a series published by Lit Verlag and edited by Solvay Gerke and Hans-Dieter Evers at the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn in Germany — are especially timely because they each address, from different vantage points, crucial questions about environmental change, water management and development in the Mekong Delta. Nadine Reis’s volume, Tracing and making the state, deals with the provision and supply of fresh water in rural areas of Can Tho province, looking both at how the performance of water supply buttresses the legitimacy of the Vietnamese state and at how the bureaucratic apparatus that has emerged around water supply actually functions. Pham Cong Huu’s volume, Floods and farmers, examines the construction of flood dykes in the Mekong Delta, again drawing on research conducted in Can Tho to examine the participation (or non-participation) of local people in the design and construction of these new dykes, as well as their impact on local environments and livelihoods. In her volume, Beautiful floods, Judith Ehlert supplies an ethnographic account of the local politics of environmental knowledge in the Mekong Delta, focusing on the competing perspectives that exist around the floods that occur each rainy season; while local residents, she argues, tend to treat such flooding as a favourable event, government planners and experts have instead come to see the floods as a threat which must be controlled and contained. Finally, Tatjana Bauer’s volume, The challenge of knowledge sharing, again explores the politics of knowledge, this time analysing the structural impediments facing the production and dissemination of technical and scientific knowledge on water management within Vietnamese universities and research institutes, based on research conducted in both Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City.


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Journal Article