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ONLINE SEMINAR: Sango Mahanty – ‘Rupture: Conceptualising Nature-Society Transformation’

1st July 2020 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

This event is the first in a series of online talks on the STEPS Centre’s ‘Natures’ theme.


About this event

Rupture: Conceptualising Nature-Society Transformation*

Sango Mahanty
Resources, Environment and Development Program, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University

*Based on a forthcoming paper with Sarah Milne, Keith Barney, Phuc Xuan To, Philip Hirsch and Wolfram Dressler

This webinar will present a forthcoming paper from our collaborative project on Rupture. Christian Lund (2016) used the concept of rupture to describe moments of sudden institutional change, such as conflict and colonisation, which he suggested were fertile spaces to observe processes of state making, new material and political claims, social actions and resistance.

We took this analytical lens to the Mekong region, where mega infrastructure projects such as hydro-electric dams are dramatically transforming nature and society. The framing of rupture allows us to unravel certain complexities around these developments. Here, rupture does not represent a discrete “moment,” as Lund described, but rather a process that unfolds over time. The social and material transformations associated with these dams interact with historical and ongoing changes. They have cascading and generative effects that connect across scales.

In bringing the rupture lens to these cases, we develop and integrate four analytical themes that have broader relevance in understanding nature-society transformation: interactivity between transformative processes; cross-scale interactions; temporality, and agency. The talk will elaborate on these themes with reference to our empirical research, and discuss how they build upon existing perspectives on nature-society transformation.

About the speaker

Sango Mahanty is a human geographer who studies the politics of social and environmental change. Her current research examines how communities and civil society cope with dramatic processes of nature-society disruption or ‘rupture’. This work explores how communities are able to gain agency in fragmented settings through their community and civil society networks, and their engagements with government.

Sango has explored similar questions of local agency and network formation at sites of intense market development in the Cambodia-Vietnam borderland. She also has a long engagement with research on green economy interventions, especially their labour arrangements and their implications for equity and social conflict. Sango’s early research centred on participatory resource management, community development and processes of social learning in Australia, the South Pacific and South Asia. She currently leads the Resources, Environment & Development Program in ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy (see her profile page).

NATURES: Our theme for 2020

NaturesNature is all around us, but there are many ways of seeing different kinds of ‘natures’, and many efforts to involve it in forms of control or domination.

How is talk of crisis shaping nature and people’s views of it? How can colonial forms of knowledge, technology and power be challenged, and what might it mean to ‘decolonize’ the study of environmental change? What do alternatives look like, and how can we explore, nurture, imagine and live the relationships we might want for the future? 

Find out more about our theme for 2020 on our Natures theme page.


1st July 2020
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
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