Paper Activism: Environmental Struggles in Western India
Morgenstierne Seminar lecture
Kenneth Bo Nielsen, Associate Professor, IKOS
The Indian state, writes Nayanika Mathur, is a paper tiger: An inveterate writer that is obsessed with producing, circulating, storing and decoding paper. Paper, in this rendering, is thus central to the composition, maintenance and assemblage of the Indian state. While recent anthropological work has productively used the study of documents to highlight the constitutive work they perform across multiple domains within and beyond the state, in this talk I want to look at how paper has also become a central medium through which social activists engage the state and contest state action in the context of struggles over nature. From petitions and memoranda to fact finding mission reports, household surveys, and grassroots environmental impact assessments, the production and circulation of paper is, I argue, crucial to what activists do when they mobilise to protect the environment. In the presentation I use the case of a highly controversial airport project in the Western Indian state of Goa to analyse the contours and implications of this kind of paper activism.