A Geek Bite – The academic side of the project. 23.03.14

As much as we’re looking forward to the adventure of the expedition, which is really inherent to the project (since it’s exciting just getting to Zanskar), the academic element of our expedition is really the purpose for the expedition, and it’s what we’re all really excited about. So, geeky as this is, it makes sense to write in detail about the academic aims of the expedition. As mentioned, the expedition is made up of several projects, but the cornerstone and the theme for which is dissertation research. My dissertation is more or less totally independent and as such, it isn’t going to be ground breaking research – it is only undergraduate level. Nonetheless, research it is, because no-one else has really looked into this question in this place. So, extracting some parts of my dissertation proposal, and simplifying some parts, here is an explanation of the project!

The research is about migration in response to climate change, and aims to understand how traditional water management strategies and logics are employed in relation to other socio-economic influences in the decision to migrate. This boils down to examining migration & questioning if this is driven entirely by water scarcity.

My specific research objectives are:

–             To reconstruct a history and geography of migration in the region, by dating and mapping which villages had moved and to where.

–             To generate a better understanding of drivers for migration in the area, challenging an environmentally deterministic reading of migration.

–             To consider conceptualising migration approaches within newer fields of literature on transformative strategies, rather than within the conventional adaptation nexus.

In essence, the question sits between 3 different sets of literature, firstly, knowledge about the traditional adaptation strategies to chronic water scarcity in the region, such as collaborative labour relations and irrigation systems, which has been termed an organising ‘hydro-logic’ (Gutschow, 1998). Separate to this is a body of literature regarding migration as an adaptation strategy in its own right to climate change (McLeman and Smit, 2006), which interestingly points to the social drivers of who migrates and when – which is not always a simple case of moving when climate forces this. The final group of literature is about theories of climate change adaptation, which has been a really busy field of late (IPCC, 2007). This has recently been developed by authors arguing for a more positive approach in transformative approaches, rather than a ‘narrowly defensive’ adaptation approach (Pelling, 2007). I am interested in questioning whether or not, by actively re-locating, villagers are contesting change and adopting transformative responses.

The project is ambitious and the methods need some fine tuning to ensure the it stays manageable.  However, they are characterised by an ethnographic and participatory approach, using interviews and oral histories to date village relocations. My methods are similar to Participatory Rural Appraisal methods (PRA) (Chambers, 1994), such as focus group activities – resource mapping and diagramming. By staying in different homestays we will be able to contact different stakeholders and perspectives, so triangulating our findings. I will use some quantitative methods such as ‘quick and dirty’ social surveys of villages to initially establish populations and demographics. In terms of sampling, I’ll use a purposeful sampling method (Clifford &Valentine, 2003) since we have identified some villages (Kumik, Pishu and Shum-Shade / Yarshun & Marshun) that are the easiest to access, and are also at different stages of migration, which allows a chronological comparison.

Finally, since this is unashamedly a geek bite, here’s some of my bibliography which the research is drawn from:

Angmo, T. & Heiniger L.P (2009). Impact  of Climate Change on Local Livelihoods in the Cold Deserts of the Western Indian Himalayan Region of Ladakh and Lahaul & Spiti, (GERES).

Chambers, R., 1994a. ‘The Origins and Practice of Participatory Rural Appraisal’. World Development 22(7): 953-969.

Clifford, N.J & Valentine, G. (2003) Key methods in Human Geography. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Crook, J., & Osmaston, H. (1994). Himalayan Buddhist villages: environment, resources, society and religious life in Zangskar, Ladakh. University of Bristol Press.

Gutschow, K. (1998). Hydro-logic in the Northwest Himalaya: several case studies from Zangskar. Karakorum-Hindukush-Himalaya: Dynamics of Change, Rudiger Koppe, Koln.

McLeman, R., & Smit, B. (2006). Migration as an adaptation to climate change.Climatic Change76(1-2), 31-53.

O’Brien, K. (2012). Global environmental change II From adaptation to deliberate transformation. Progress in Human Geography36(5), 667-676.

Parry, M. L. (Ed.). (2007). Climate Change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability: contribution of Working Group II to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Vol. 4). Cambridge University Press.

Pelling, M. (2010). Adaptation to climate change: from resilience to transformation. Routledge.

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