The Indian Ocean World Podcast
Micro-Financing Rural Cambodia: Loans, Debt, and Climate Change

Micro-Financing Rural Cambodia: Loans, Debt, and Climate Change

March 25, 2022

What does it mean when we talk about micro-financing the rural economy? And how does micro-financing apply to Cambodia? These questions are explored by Professor W. Nathan Green, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore.  Prof. Green’s research critically examines the political ecologies of agrarian finance and infrastructure in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Cambodia. By combining his economic, geographical, and ethnographic study of rural Cambodia, Prof. Green paints us a vivid picture of the development of Cambodian loan and borrowing structures, while delving into the risks associated with having one’s land in collateral. Since the 1980s, micro-financing has been essential to Cambodia’s rise out of the economic and humanitarian turmoil inflicted by the Pol Pot regime. But, as climate change continues to impact the stability of Cambodia and the rest of the world, vulnerabilities amongst those dwelling in this ‘borrowers’ economy have become increasingly noticeable. As is stated by Prof. Green, vulnerability to climate change goes beyond the natural environment to encapsulate structural drivers of vulnerability like political empowerment, the ability to make decisions over one’s own land, entitlements to resources, etc. Rising household indebtedness in Cambodia due to its micro-financing scheme is a major driver of household vulnerability.

To learn more about Prof Green, check out his academic page here: https://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/geowng/

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC; English Common Law, University of Ottawa) and Philip Gooding (postdoctoral fellow, IOWC, McGill).

Never Again was there a City like Diu: Architecture, History, and Culture in Colonial Gujarat

Never Again was there a City like Diu: Architecture, History, and Culture in Colonial Gujarat

February 16, 2022

In this podcast, Dr. Nuno Grancho, a postdoctoral fellow and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Centre for Privacy Studies, University of Copenhagen, discusses his research into the architecture of the island city of Diu, Gujarat, West India. Focussing on the five centuries of Diu’s Portuguese occupation (1514-1961) his work demonstrates the complex nature of overlap between spatial and functional categories in the colonial context. Dr. Grancho approaches Diu as a modern artefact of study, with his research extended beyond the tangible aspects of the city’s structure. In doing so, he argues that the history and theory of architecture and urbanism combined with the history and theory of the collision of Portuguese and West Indian cultures have created an exceptional urban architectural environment. This exceptionalism, as remarked by Dr. Grancho, is marked by the fact that “never again was there a place like Diu in the history of European colonial presence in India, in the history of colonial identity in India, and most of all, in the history of European colonial cities in India.”

By comparing Diu’s structure and organization to other European settlements (English, Dutch, Danish, and French), Dr. Grancho’s research contributes to the historiography of imperial architecture and architectural history. Specifically, it highlights the ethnic, racial, social, and spatial divide between Indigenous and European colonial settlements. With regards to the preservation of the rich history within the parameter of Diu’s urban environment, Dr. Grancho maintains that a balance must be found between what is heritage and what is vernacular, and contemporary building techniques of today must be used to preserve the authenticity of this exceptional city.

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC) and  Philip Gooding (postdoctoral fellow, IOWC, McGill).

The Indus Delta Between Past and Future

The Indus Delta Between Past and Future

January 11, 2022

The IOWC Podcast team had the opportunity of interviewing Dr. Hasan H. Karrar, an Associate Professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (“LUMS,” Lahore, Pakistan) who specializes in modern Chinese and Central Asian history and political economy. In this podcast, Dr. Karrar delves into his recent working paper entitled “The Indus Delta Between Past and Future: Precarious Livelihoods and Neoliberal Imaginaries in a Parched Coastal Belt,” which was published in the 5th volume of the Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies (JIOWS). Predominantly located in Pakistan, the Indus delta, at the terminus of the Indus River system, is presently home to 300,000 residents. Over the last century, upriver hydrology has reduced the flow of water through the river. The result of continuous hydrological manipulation is salination and seawater incursion that has led to the loss of arable land – reducing agriculture as a sustainable livelihood. This has created precarious livelihoods whereby people are forced either into the informal fishing sector, or to migrate, representing a stark departure from earlier times when agriculture was the primary vocation.  

Dr. Karrar asks what the future holds for the delta region of Pakistan? What solutions might be proposed to these climate-related roadblocks? One solution is utilizing Chinese investment in Pakistan to reduce the environmental impact on the region. This approach moreover presents a future Pakistan that is connected to markets in Asia through its ports, an economic design that has been propagated in Pakistan for decades. However, as is argued by Dr. Karrar, the fixation on the fantastical futures of the Pakistani state, while encouraging investment and economic longevity, does not assist in remedying the problems of a delta-based population stuck in an uncertain present.

William Tolly and His Canal: 18th Century Calcutta and the Complexities of Industrialization

William Tolly and His Canal: 18th Century Calcutta and the Complexities of Industrialization

January 4, 2022

In this podcast, our host Philip Gooding interviews Professor Kaustubh Mani Sengupta (Bankura University, West Bengal, India) on his recent article published in the fifth volume of the Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies (JIOWS), entitled “William Tolly and His Canal: Navigating Calcutta in the Late-Eighteenth Century.” Specifically, Prof. Sengupta elaborates on the making of one particularly arduous canal in Calcutta, connecting the port city of Bengal with the eastern districts of the province for better trade and communication. This massive undertaking, headed by a serving officer of the East India Company (EIC), Major Tolly, revealed the material, political, and economic complexities of industrialization in early British India. In addition to discussing the general inefficiency of the Company and its young British servants, Prof. Sengupta advances the environmental history of the region by discussing how canal-building introduced significant shifts in how surrounding populations interacted with their natural environment. Going forward, Prof. Sengupta hopes to apply an enhanced environmental perspective to his ongoing research on Calcutta industrialization, water systems, and sanitation epidemics.

Link to article:

https://jiows.mcgill.ca/article/view/99

 

 

The Disadvantaged Asian Honeybee

The Disadvantaged Asian Honeybee

November 15, 2021

Where does your honey come from? Who produces it and who benefits from its consumption?

In this podcast, Dr. Denise Matias (Associate Researcher, Centre for Development Research, University of Bonn) discusses her research into Asian honeybee farming. While predominantly focussing on indigenous practices of honey cultivation in the forests of the Palawan Islands, the Philippines, the podcast sheds awareness on how European standards of wild honey is putting Asian honey at a significant disadvantage in global trade and consumption. The frequent exclusion of Asian honey from Westernized honey markets has been addressed by researchers and NGOs. However, there has been little government initiative to rectify the gap.

As the children of Indigenous honeybee farmers in the Palawan islands continue to be educated away from their traditional lands, their knowledge of traditional honey production dwindles. Reductions in Indigenous knowledge of honey cultivation, combined with the erratic floods and droughts brought forward by climate change, are rapidly shortening the lifespan of the Asian honeybee, as well as reducing the conjugal social-ecological relationship between honeybee farmers and the bees.

19th Century Transcolonial Tourism (Toivanen)

19th Century Transcolonial Tourism (Toivanen)

October 12, 2021

Dr. Mikko Toivanen (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich) joins us to discuss his research on colonial tourism and its relationship with the environment throughout various Southeast and South Asian colonies in the 19th century. While frequently considered through a historical, economic or scientific lens, these colonial strongholds were also developed as havens of leisure tourism for travelling Europeans. By studying British and Dutch imperial travel logs, Dr. Toivanen demonstrates how colonial exploits transformed the natural environments in Ceylon, Java, and the Strait Settlement. He argues that these transformations were largely rooted in imperial competition to develop the most appealing travel destination for the European constituency. Competitive botany, for example, stimulated the construction of fantastical botanical gardens in colonial capitals, providing travellers with a highly exclusive and controlled tropical environment that provided attractive venues for events, performances, rest, and observation.

Perhaps most influential in his work is Dr. Toivanen’s argument that a circuit of transcolonial leisure-travel was developed around the mid-19th century. From the nature of this transcolonial circuit emerged a hierarchy of travel destinations, with Dutch and British invalid travellers seeking out specific colonial strongholds for vacation based on the desirability of their climate. This contradicts the previous belief that early colonial tourism had been restricted to the respective colonies of each European imperialist power. 

‘Black Cardamom is Forever‘(Slack)

‘Black Cardamom is Forever‘(Slack)

September 29, 2021

In this podcast, the IOWC podcast team had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Slack, a PhD student studying under the McGill University Geography Department. Throughout the conversation, Patrick discusses his ongoing research (MA and PhD) into the role that black cardamom plays in upland, ethnic minority semi-subsistence livelihoods in the western Sino-Vietnamese borderlands. Black cardamom – a medicinal and culinary non-timber forest product – was previously touted as a sustainable rural development livelihood strategy. It provided reliable income to subsidize the lives of borderland farmers for decades, permitting stability, self-determination, and independence among farmers in Vietnam’s northern Lao Cai province.

However, over the past decade, the cultivation of black cardamom has been threatened by two major catalysts: 1) extreme weather events which have decimated harvests; and 2) the increasing regulations that centralized governments have been imposing on highland forests and cardamom cultivation within them.  Patrick explores both threats in this podcast. He goes into detail on how he became interested in the crop as a research topic, how ethnic minorities of northern Vietnam are treated by mainstream society, how regulations on the cultivation of black cardamom – also seen as the regulation of ethnically and culturally diverse behaviours – are impacting the ethnic minority populations subsisting off of the crop in the borderlands, as well as how gender roles, climate change, and the Covid-19 pandemic come into play when discussing the continuance of the crop throughout northern highland society. Patrick further explains his hopes for his upcoming PhD research, which will focus on both the Lao Cai province and the west-adjacent province of Lai Chau. The ethnographic study that Patrick intends to produce throughout his doctoral degree will be the first to explore how borderland ethnic minority farmers in upland northern Vietnam have navigated modernity and state interventionism over the past century.

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

The Yellow River‘s Shifting Course: 11th Century Northern Song China (Zhang)

The Yellow River‘s Shifting Course: 11th Century Northern Song China (Zhang)

September 2, 2021
In this podcast, Prof. Ling Zhang (Boston College, USA) unravels the multi-layered and multi-faceted impact of a major climatic anomaly in northern Song China in the 11th-century shift of the Yellow River's course north to the Hebei province (1048-1128 CE). She tells us her initial impressions of northern China as a desolate region compared to the prosperous south made her question a crucial and under-explored issue of the Tang-Song transition in China during the medieval economic boom (7th-13th centuries): In a time when China experienced an economic revolution, what happened to northern China? Why did it fall behind? Prof. Zhang's research to answer this question confronted her with the devastating shift of the Yellow River to Hebei (1048CE), and the long-term underbelly of socio-economic and enviro-political processes that preceded and followed the river's shift to Hebei. The Song state prioritised the south, the seat of the empire, against the north to manage the Yellow River's floods - a phenomenon that had been precluded by warmer temperatures and more humidity in the preceding two centuries to facilitate massive agricultural expansion in northern China. This had resulted in long-term soil erosion and increased sedimentation in the Yellow River which, coupled with the state's hydraulic projects, produced the disaster of 1048 CE. If its instant impact had been unexpectedly shocking to Hebei, the longue durée of this climatic anomaly meant a slow death for northern China. As farming became increasingly difficult due to rapidly eroding silt and the river's repetitive floods in the north, farmers could not sustain their previous sedentary lifestyle in the face of decreasing food security and either migrated as refugees or turned to banditry. The government, in its bid to tackle famine among the disaster refugees, turned to conscripting adult males into the army and encouraged richer sections of the society to adopt refugees, in effect leading to famine-induced bondage of women and children. When conscripted soldiers deserted to join bandits in north China, the impact of a climatic crisis eventually snowballed into political and moral bankruptcy for the state in the north. The Song state donned an interventionist avatar and bought foodstuff from other parts to feed the consumer market in north China. Although this boosted production and had a positive economic impact as a corollary, it was founded on the enviro-economic collapse of northern China - a divergence which, Zhang argues, helps us rethink the question of Tang-Song transition and a medieval economic revolution in China. Finally, Prof. Ling Zhang concludes that in dealing with contemporary climate change, humans should learn from their past mistakes, when their profound arrogance in the belief of providing a single solution to conquer nature has repeatedly foundered. In so doing, Prof. Zhang argues in favour of a more inclusive model of knowledge that combines the diversity of local knowledge of environment(s) with social science-based, humanistic-and-eco systematic understandings of environmental issues.
 

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

 
Recovery with dignity in South Asia (Singh and Few)

Recovery with dignity in South Asia (Singh and Few)

July 28, 2021

In this podcast, Dr Chandni Singh (Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore, India) and Prof. Roger Few (University of East Anglia) discuss the different meanings of recovery from disasters and highlight how disasters are caused as much by physical hazards as they are socially generated. Using case studies from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Singh and Few argue that long-term recovery from disasters should focus not only on the measurable, tangible impact (roads, buildings), but also on rebuilding the well-being of communities. Differential access to resources and assets - e.g., loans to rebuild a house, or collateral - meaning rebuilding and recovery have contrasting connotations for affected communities. Media reports too shape the broader understandings of the impact of disasters. While infrastructural recovery is more visible in the recovery policies of Tamil Nadu that has a long history of disasters, psychosocial recovery of people is harder to achieve - as people displaced by a tsunami and rehabilitated to flood-prone areas in Chennai will find it difficult to grow out of stress induced by climatic anomalies. As social scientists and planners, Singh and Few recommend that disaster management, especially for coastal cities like Chennai in India, should be simply not reactive. Instead, a more proactive approach that a) relies upon preserving the wetlands which can absorb a lot of damage caused by floods and cyclones; b) is more attentive towards vulnerability across temporal scales and social differentiation; and, c) is more democratic by including more of people's voices in what recovery means is a better answer to reimagining recovery from disasters. In so doing, Chandni Singh and Roger Few tell us about a relatively lesser-known aspect of human-environment interaction in the Indian Ocean World.

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Maladaptation to Climate Change (Schipper)

Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Maladaptation to Climate Change (Schipper)

July 21, 2021

The IOWC podcast team interviews Dr. Lisa Schipper (University of Oxford) an Environmental Social Science Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute (ECI). Dr. Schipper’s research explores the interlinkages between climate change and human development, as she seeks to address the question of whether fair and just development is possible in a changing climate. Our discussion covers Dr. Schipper’s exploration of vulnerabilities to climate change that exist in communities in the developing world. She argues that socio-cultural dimensions of vulnerability –such as gender, culture, religion, etc. – relate to structural inequalities of power, justice and equity; ultimately leading to mosaics of different levels of climate change vulnerability within each stand-alone community. Dr. Schipper delves into how the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic, social, and political impacts have increased vulnerabilities throughout the developing world, as well as how downfalls of short-term climate change adaptation strategies, and maladaptation to climate change, have only emphasized existing vulnerabilities within specific communities. Moreover, as a current coordinating lead author of Chapter 18 of the Working Group 2 Contribution to the 6th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr. Schipper delves into the problematic attitude of prioritizing scientific and quantitative data over qualitative data of the human experience in climate change reporting. She warns of the simplification and misunderstandings that are frequently engendered by focusing solely on the numeric values of climate change instead of truly fleshing out the complexities that exist among human beings experiencing vulnerability to climate change. Finally, Dr. Schipper touches on the effects of the frequent exclusion of female voices and voices from the global south, particularly in African countries, from the academic echo chamber. She argues that this form of gatekeeping excludes different perspectives, and perhaps solutions, to the rapidly changing climate.

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

 

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