Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Thisfindingcontradicts muchofwhatsocialscientists havelearnedinrecentyearsabout
the consequences of development-induced displacement for local communities. The an-
thropologist Thayer Scudder (2005), for example, who has undertaken perhaps the most
comprehensive and far-reaching review of the social impacts of large dams around the
world, argues that there are very few cases in which dam-induced displacement resulted
in improved livelihoods for local people. One key point of the controversy over the long-
term socioeconomic effects of dams is whether dam construction and operation—the most
labor-intensive stages in a project's life cycle—actually create jobs for local residents, an
argument that government agencies and hydropower corporations routinely put forward in
support of their agendas.
reporting some income from wage labor, fewer than 4 percent had someone in the house-
reported a member working in a job connected to hydropower. In Lancang County,
however, 40 percent of households with a member working in wage labor said that
someone in the household worked in a job related to hydropower, likely because the
Nuozhadu Dam was still under construction at the time the survey was administered,
providing more opportunities for unskilled work. If Lancang County follows the typical
pattern of other dam projects in China and elsewhere, low-level job opportunities will
likely disappear once the dam begins operation. I revisit this issue in chapter 6 with a closer
examination of resettlement-compensation policies and their effects on households in the
Lancang basin.
Because dams uproot communities, they have the potential to seriously disrupt social net-
works, the webs of interdependence that community members maintain with one another
through relationships of trust and reciprocity. Social scientists have been interested in the
study of social networks as an intellectual project going back at least to Emile Durkheim's
work in the late nineteenth century. These networks provide a basis for communal iden-
tities, but they also serve more pragmatic and instrumental purposes, helping to distribute
resources, disseminate information, and provide economic support in good times and bad.
Such networks reinforce a community's ability to adapt to changes or external stressors;
they “provide a basis for social cohesion because they enable people to cooperate with
one another—and not just with people they know directly—for mutual advantage” (Field
2003:12). This is particularly true in China, where dyadic social ties colloquially known
as guanxi are a tremendously important means of securing a job, navigating the political
system, and otherwise making one's way in society (M. Yang 1994). How might the re-
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