Development and Change in India: Workshop at Essex, 26th June 2013

Schoolboy in Ahmednagar district, India. Photo: Zareen P. Bharucha

The great Indian Growth Story is one of the most exciting of our times.  Socioeconomic change is altering the lives of 1.2 billion people. For communities who farm, fish, hunt or forage for a living, development brings poverty-alleviation, but also displacement, vulnerability, violence and loss. How do communities adapt and navigate the complex terrain of ‘development-induced change’?  To address these issues, the Essex Sustainability Institute is collaborating with researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on a series of research workshops. We invite you to take part in this exciting new collaboration, and bring your expertise to bear on the new research questions which will present themselves! Papers will be followed by round-table discussion and the event will be followed by dinner, courtesy of the Essex Sustainability Institute.

The event is free, but places are limited. Registration is required for both the event and dinner thereafter. To register, click here. For further information, please email: 

Facilitators: Prof. Steffen Boehm and Dr. Zareen P. Bharucha


Prof. Amita Singh, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University.Assessing development through the Ecosystem Well-being Index.This paper suggests that unless development policy is directed around the conservation and protection of ecosystems rather than protecting a few selected species,or diverting huge land areas into infrastructural projects , progress may neither be sustainable nor peaceful. Measures of progress towards development play an important role in measuring what counts as development and how much progress is being made. The Ecosystem Well-being Index (EWI) is a relevant and culturally-acceptable mode of evaluating progress towards development.  To explain its relevance, the paper analyzes land acquisition processes in India.

Prof. Sachidanand Sinha, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Development and Displacement of Land-based communities: The tribal population of Central India.

Projects such as mining, the constrution of new townships, urbanization and the development of major infrastructure projects has led to massive land acquisition during the last two decades in India. This paper will examine the magnitude of displacements of the agrarian populations in general and tribes in particular. It will examine the processes of land acquisition of the forest-based communities in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and the consequences it may have with respect to their livelihoods and survival.

Prof. Fiona Marshall, Science, Technology & Policy Research Unit and STEPS Centre, University of Sussex
Living on the edge: Perspectives on Sustainability in Peri-Urban India. 
As BRICS countries forge new development pathways, the pace and nature of growth in peri-urban spaces is unprecedented. Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation inevitably brings pro-poor benefits, generating jobs and resources that contribute to overall well-being. However the benefits remain very unevenly distributed and many of the costs to the environment and to human well-being remain little understood and under reported. This paper discusses a series of interdisciplinary research and policy engagement initiatives in India, which explored these issues. We have examined how a failure to address these apparently transitory issues results in a plethora of missed opportunities to benefit from rural-urban synergies, for example in waste management and provision of affordable and nutritious fresh food produce. Crucially, there is much to be learnt from peri-urban communities about adaptation in rapidly changing environments, which rarely contributes to the formal policy and planning making processes. Through empirical case studies we are currently exploring possibilities for a more positive relationship between the city and its periphery.

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Seminar: Indigenous responses to resource development & property shifts

Deh Cho Dene Elder, Photo: Alan R. Emery

{Photo source}

This seminar will be of interest if you’re researching or are involved with traditional cultures  who are navigating the challenges posed by conventional ‘development’.

The Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities at the University of Essex is organising a seminar on the 30th of April at 4pm. Dr Carol Brown-Leonardi will present on Indigenous Responses To Resource Development And Property Shifts In The Arctic Region

Abstract: The common struggle for many indigenous people world-wide is the recognition of their indigenous rights, economic marginalisation and the political participation and representation for making decisions on their traditional land.  This presentation focuses on the Deh Cho Dene indigenous community in Northern Canada, who are currently negotiating for the control over traditional land and resources with the Canadian government. The presentation is fundamentally concerned with understanding how some underlying political influences and the negotiation for land has transformed the concept of the property for the Deh Cho Dene and what such concept means to the Deh Cho indigenous people.



Some Reflections on the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Canada

Defenders of the Land lead protests to raise awareness of the plight of indigenous people in Canada in 2010. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Tomorrow at the University of Essex, Elizabeth Cassell of the Department of Sociology will deliver a talk hosted by Essex’s Human Rights Centre on the Canadian Land Claims process. The talk will be held from 1-2pm in the Law Department Common Room (Room 5S.6.7 – see here for a guide to room numbering).

Abstract: The Canadian Land Claims process is the product of a series of policies and laws directed at indigenous peoples which both denies them consent over the relinquishing of their lands, and is characterized by a lack of attention to the rights vested in indigenous peoples from colonial precedents. As a result, the contemporary Canadian Land Claims process does not measure up to the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and other international human rights protocols. It does not meet even rudimentary standards in regard to providing informed consent, requiring indigenous peoples to extinguish their ownership of their lands, dividing indigenous peoples into configurations that are artificial and diminishing their negotiating power, and creating invidiously asymmetric responsibilities between the state and the indigenous party. This talk in intended to give a feel of what land claims negotiations are like on the ground and to demonstrate that UNDRIP is of the greatest importance to indigenous peoples even in countries who purport to have an exemplary human rights record. It will be useful background to Julian Burger’s session on UNDRIP on Saturday 17th March.

{Photo source here}


Resilience and Returning to Country: Rainforest Aboriginal People of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia

Australian humid tropical forest. Photo: Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

Background: Australian humid tropical forests have been recognised as globally significant natural landscapes through world heritage listing since 1988.  Aboriginal people have occupied these forests and shaped the biodiversity for at least 8000 years. The forests represent an integral part of Indigenous Australian cultural, social, religious and spiritual values. Aboriginal involvement in land management is essential to maintaining contemporary and traditional concepts of culture, and for improving the chances of resilient ‘country’. Kuku Nyungkal is one of eighteen traditional owner groups with land rights in the Wet Tropics region. Nyungkal people remain active users and managers of their lands and have recently been employed as environmental stewards to maintain essential ecosystem services. Our case study is a cooperative research example from the WTWHA where the impetus was knowledge evolution and creation to support cross-cultural natural resource management, governance whilst interrogating the concept of and enabling factors for resilience on Nyungkal country. Work was conducted in partnership with the Kuku Nyungkal Indigenous Ranger group. Our case study provides insight into the adaptive capacity of a rainforest Aboriginal tribe who have maintained or retraced their traditional connection to country and for whom culture, traditional and contemporary, remains strong. Some conditions that enable country resilience include: Rainforest Aboriginal peoples’ governance of country; their shaping of the heritage discourse to incorporate and manage biocultural diversity; active Aboriginal environmental stewardship on traditional lands; and returning to or reconnecting with country. Culture needs to be supported and strengthened and Aboriginal cultural heritage must be protected by the traditional stewards of the land utilising both privileged traditional and contemporary knowledge and methods. By building social capital and maintaining natural capital, the Kuku Nyungkal rangers are creating for themselves improved chances of resilience to current and future global challenges.

Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

About the author: Leanne has a B.Sc. in Marine Biology from Newcastle University, a M.Sc. in Marine Environmental Protection from Bangor University and a Ph.D. from Essex University. After completing a CSIRO postdoctoral fellowship in Australia, Leanne returned to the UK to take up a Research Fellowship within the newly formed Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) at Cardiff University. Her role involves the development of a research package around mobilities, flows and migration – of people, knowledge, resources, and more –in order to understand the impacts of such flows and implications for sustainability. Leanne’s research focuses on linked social-ecological systems, recently within a terrestrial context (the Wet Tropical Rainforest of Queensland); but her background is within the marine sciences. Leanne is interested in the threats posed to livelihoods and the economy, food security and lifestyles from a changing global environment. She is also interested in mitigation, adaptation and human behavioural changes within linked physical, social and ecological systems and in the development of socio-economically appropriate conservation and sustainable use policy. She is skilled in community engagement and cooperative research and has experience in place-based research/learning approaches. Co-development of solutions to resource problems using a variety of mixed methodological approaches is also a strong interest of hers. Leanne has had extensive experience working with Indigenous peoples in remote areas of Indonesia and Australia particularly around joint management and governance of natural resources. Other research interests include: economic valuation of natural resources; resource use patterns; alternative livelihoods; sustainable development; biocultural resilience.

Further Publications:

  • LC Cullen-Unsworth, J Pretty & DJ Smith (2011). Developing Community-Derived Indicators of the Economic Impact of Conservation Management in the Coral Triangle. Ocean and Coastal Management doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2011.03.004
  • R Hill, LC Cullen-Unsworth, LD Talbot & S McIntyre (Accepted 2010). Empowering Indigenous     peoples’ biocultural diversity through world heritage cultural landscapes: A case study from the Australian tropical forests. International Journal of Heritage Studies
  • LC Cullen-Unsworth, JRA Butler, R Hill & Wallace M (2010). Cooperative Research: An Example from Far North Queensland. International Journal of Integrated Social Sciences 5 (6): 139-154.
  • RKF Unsworth, LC Cullen, JN Pretty, DJ Smith & JJ Bell (2010) Economic and subsistence values of the standing stocks of seagrass fisheries: potential benefits of no-fishing marine protected area management. Ocean and Coastal Management 53 (5-6): 218-224.
  • RKF Unsworth & LC Cullen (2010) Recognising the Necessity for Seagrass Conservation. Conservation Letters 3 (2): 63-73.
  • K Maclean & LC Cullen (2009) Research methodologies for the co-production of knowledge for environmental management in Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 39 (4): 205-208.
  • LC Cullen, JRA Butler, R Hill & C Margules (2008) Framework for the identification of linked socio-cultural and biophysical indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability 4 (2): 37-46.
  • SE Pilgrim, LC Cullen, DJ Smith & J Pretty (2008) Ecological Knowledge is Lost in Wealthier Communities and Countries. Environmental Science and Technology 42 (4): 1004-1009.
  • LC Cullen, SE Pilgrim, DJ Smith & J Pretty (2007) The Loss of Local Ecological Knowledge as it relates to Changes in Economic Status: consequences for sustainable self-management of marine natural resources. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 2 (1): 289-299.
  • SE Pilgrim, LC Cullen, DJ Smith and J Pretty (2007) Hidden Harvest or Hidden Revenue? The effect of economic development pressures on local resource use in a remote region of southeast   Sulawesi, Indonesia. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 6 (1): 150-159.

Adaptability amongst the Bajau, Indonesia

Bajau village, Sampela, Kaledupa Island, Indonesia. Photo: Julian Clifton

Background: This case study is centered on the Bajau, the most widely dispersed maritime ethnic group within south-east Asia. The Bajau are found across Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia and, whilst linguistic and other differences are present, certain common characteristics are usually found. One of these is the high dependence on marine resources for food, fuel and building materials, as the Bajau commonly live in ‘stilt villages’ erected on wood, stone or dead coral foundations extending across the reef flat. Furthermore, fish and other marine products represent an essential component of Bajau diets and trading systems, whilst the collection of marine resources influences daily social practices and religious observances. There is, therefore, a uniquely close affinity with the sea in everyday life which permeates every Bajau community. This has been showcased in high profile media events including the BBC’s recent ‘Human Planet’ documentary. It is this affinity which led me to address aspects of Bajau life from the ‘Ecocultures’ perspective and underline the increasing scale and complexity of political, economic and environmental issues facing this society which has hitherto insulated and marginalised itself from mainstream cultures. However, change is an integral part of daily life in maritime communities such as the Bajau and they have proved remarkably resilient to past stresses, thus we should not make the error of believing that change in itself is detrimental to Bajau society. In fact, adaptability may yet prove to be the strongest asset possessed by this unique and fascinating group of people.

Julian Clifton

About the author: 

Julian Clifton gained his PhD in Geography in 1997 from the University of Liverpool and spent ten years teaching at the University of Portsmouth. In 2007, he moved to Perth and is Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia. Dr. Clifton’s academic research has always focused upon south-east Asia, with specific reference to marine resource management, conservation and planning. These reflect his interests in understanding the role played by local communities in marine resource management and the implications of wider conservation policies on communities’ ability to develop sustainable livelihoods. It is often the case that the broader conservation agenda experiences many points of conflict when set against the needs and requirements of local resource users, and his interests focus upon the processes and outcomes of these conflicts.

Further Publications: 


  • Clifton, J., Majors, C. (2012). Culture, conservation and conflict: perspectives on marine protection amongst the Bajau of south-east Asia. Society and Natural Resources 25(7), 716-725.
  • Clifton, J., Etienne, M., Barnes, D.K.A., Barnes, R.S.K., Suggett, D.J., Smith, D.J. (2012). Marine conservation policy in the Seychelles: current constraints and prospects for improvement. Marine Policy 36, 823-831.
  • Clifton, J. (2011). The Wakatobi National Park – governance analysis. In: Governing Marine Protected Areas: getting the balance right – Volume 2, eds. P.J.S. Jones, W. Qiu and E.M. De Santo. Technical Report to Marine & Coastal Ecosystems Branch, UNEP, Nairobi. Published online at
  • Clifton, J. (2010). Achieving congruence between conservation and community: the Bajau ethnic group and marine management within the Wakatobi and south-east Asia. In: Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park, eds. J. Clifton, R. Unsworth and D.J. Smith, p.171-192. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Clifton, J. (2010). Marine protected area networks in the Coral Triangle: implications for conservation and communities. In: Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park, eds. J. Clifton, R. Unsworth and D.J. Smith, p.237-250. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Clifton, J., Unsworth R. and Smith, D.J., eds. (2010) Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park. Nova Science Publishers, New York. ISBN: 978-1616684730.
  • Clifton, J. (2009). Science, funding and participation: key issues for marine protected area networks and the Coral Triangle Initiative. Environmental Conservation 36, 91-96.
  • Clifton, J. (2003). Prospects for co-management in Indonesia’s marine protected areas.Marine Policy 27, 389-395.


Environmental Knowledge in Motion: Ingenuity and Perseverance of Hunters among North Greenland

Dog sleds, North Greenland. Photo: Hayashi Naotaka

Background: This case study examines responses to climate change amongst hunters in Avanersuaq, North Greenland. It highlights how climate change impacts and adaptations interact with social, cultural and economic dimensions. Accordingly, the impact of climate change differs from place to place.  In addition, the perception of climate change varies from the local to the national levels. Just one example of this is that there is a growing expectation that climate change may bring an opportunity to the inhabitants of South Greenland, which makes South Greenland an interesting place to analyze.  This is very different from other places in the Circumpolar North, for example, Nunavut, Canada, where climate change is always thought to bring about a negative impact to the local people.  The study of Greenland always teaches me how the perception of environmental change influences and shapes the future vision of community.

Hayashi Naotaka

About the author: Having earned a B.Agri/Forestry (1995) at the University of Tokyo, Tokyo (ca. 36˚N), Hayashi Naotaka worked for the Government of Hokkaido (ca. 43˚N), the northernmost prefecture in Japan.  As a Forestry and Biological Technologist, he was involved mainly in forest protection, from entomological research to pest control, during 1995-2002.  This professional experience led him to study the social dimension of forest management in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton (ca. 53˚N), Canada.  His MA thesis is about the forest management cooperatively undertaken by a First Nation in northern Alberta (ca. 58˚N), the provincial government, and forest companies.  The study of the Cree people led to a general interest in the Circumpolar North.  Soon after, he moved on to the PhD program and chose to study the communities of North Greenland.