Imaginaries of flood, attachment and testimony: The futures of Majuli

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Geography


This project explores the demographics and physical futures of high-risk flood areas with a focus on lived imaginaries of inhabitants of Majuli in Assam, India. Disaster policies and plans draw heavily on quantitative data to map and mitigate against future flooding in Majuli; however, there remains a gap in understanding residents' experiential accounts of future risks in this region. This gap is problematic given that imagined futures heavily shape a community's relationship to place and decision-making processes such as the decision to migrate and when. This project will comprise a rich in-depth study focusing on individual and collective testimonies that address imaginaries of flood and place-based attachments in Majuli (and similar islands). Deeper insights into these imaginaries of possible futures based on the affective relation to place are vital to help communities understand and better respond to the inevitable challenges that lie ahead in terms of living in high flood-risk regions and adapting to wider climate change.

Based on innovative futuristic methodologies, this project promises to yield not only important planning information to help understand the impacts of climate change in Majuli, but also provide a framework for better insights into, and understanding of, community-based responses in other flood-prone regions. Background of the study: The residents of Brahmaputra valley are facing severe consequences in the wake of climate change; ranging from temperature rises, annual peak flows and unpredictable seasonal precipitation fluctuations. Such events compel us to think through climate futures amid dystopian environmental contexts. Climate change narratives charged by a pro-environmental attitude demonstrate the affective power of places. This approach would challenge the radical scientific approach and open up new forms of community adaptation strategies and planning responses. Climate change-induced mobilities are always projected as issues of the future, however climate crisis is not a futuristic threat anymore. Based on future imaginaries of environmental destruction in disaster-prone areas (floods, in the given context), people knowingly or unknowingly push themselves towards safer areas which in turn help in shaping those spaces. Along with it, political economy studies of climate change focus on the construction of narratives around climate change and consequently how they are applied. Scholarship based on feminist political ecology argues that perceptions of environmental risks vary depending on the social positioning of the people based on power structures. The intersectional lens of this approach hence necessitates the inclusion of social differences based on gender, ethnicity, etc. in accommodating individual experiences in the future visionaries of place-making. However, missing from the literature are the imaginaries and robust visual representations that shape individual choices regarding resettlement. This research aims to fill this gap and study the socio-economic and temporal experiences within which new models of developments can be contextualized in the future. Further, this would help advance understanding of how overarching generalized constructions, like economy or society, among policymakers and governments, often contradict the individual and subjective imaginary landscapes.

Objectives: The prime objective of the proposed research is to construct and study individual narratives based on imaginaries and how do they shape settlement patterns in return. Additionally, if the local communities envision resettlement, the project also aims to identify the potential pockets where they imagine doing it. The objectives will be investigated in the wake of rapidly changing climate and its associated disasters, specifically floods.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000746/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2745299 Studentship ES/P000746/1 25/09/2022 29/09/2026 Prahlika Deka