The Production of Rights in Disasters in Uttar Pradesh, India : Implications for Theory and Practice

Supriya Akerkar

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Despite a shift in the practice of international NGOs to a rights-based approach to disasters there is a dearth of substantial theoretical reflections on this linkage within academia. Given this knowledge gap, this research studies the linkages between disaster and rights using the case study of Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, India. The main contribution that this thesis makes to new knowledge is that of deepening the understanding of the way in which rights are produced in disasters. The thesis proposes a theoretical framework to enable such a critical assessment. The main assertion of the theoretical framework is that the social vulnerability approach to disasters can reduce vulnerability and promote social resilience only through a critical assessment of rights that includes subaltern constructs of rights and moral economy structures, their critique or collusion with the governmental framing and institutionalization of rights. The thesis grounds this claim made in the theoretical framework through its empirical chapters. The thesis has four empirical chapters; the first inquires into the colonial history of modern disaster rights; the second interrogates disaster rights in post-colonial India; the third analyses the implications of a subaltern perspective of rights for disaster risk reduction strategy; and the fourth analyses social change processes through the contestation of rights, partly attributed to the disaster. The concluding chapter of the thesis makes recommendations for a rights based social vulnerability analysis and for action in disasters in Uttar Pradesh, India. These recommendations can act as new directions for rights based disaster risk reduction and recovery work. The thesis uses an interdisciplinary approach to investigate this subject area. In particular, it uses disaster theory, human rights and political theory, subaltern theory and feminist theory. The thesis uses a hermeneutic approach as its dominant research methodology, and ethnographic research methods. It also makes a limited use of archival data and quantitative survey methods.
Original languageEnglish
  • Fordham, Maureen, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jun 2011


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