Parag Jyoti Saikia

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

North Carolina, Chapel Hill, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10346

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Saikia, Parag (North Carolina, Chapel Hill, U. of) "Life of Incomplete Infrastructure: Hydropower and the Unfinished Makings India's Future Powerhouse"

This project investigates how a massive—but incomplete—hydroelectric dam is reshaping everyday life, local ecologies and geopolitics in India’s North-East. Started in 2005, the Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (SLHEP) was supposed to be the flag-bearer of India’s ambitious effort to transform this borderland region into the ‘Future Powerhouse of India’—the first of 168 dams to this end. In 2011, SLHEP’s construction stopped halfway through the project, halting the push to develop the mega-energy infrastructures of the ‘Future Powerhouse.’ My project asks what infrastructures do when they remain incomplete. The dam’s incompleteness has spawned its own ‘ecology’ of communities, infrastructure, river, geopolitics, and more—a web of relations that is always-changing, tenuous, and generative. I explore these changing ‘ecologies’ to understand how incomplete infrastructure shapes life, environment and geopolitics. I do this by locating myself in Dirpai, the first village in the downstream of the incomplete dam. My project contributes to theorization of incomplete infrastructures, and state-making in frontiers. I will ethnographically examine: 1. How does this incomplete infrastructure shape local ecologies and their attendant lifeways, and 2. How is SLHEP altering locals experience of the Indian state in this contested frontier?