Accepted Paper:

Thirty years of interaction between actors involved in the Three Gorges Dam Project: focus on meaningful ethnographic portraits  


Katiana Le Mentec (CNRS)
Florence Padovani (Paris 1 University)

Paper short abstract:

The non-democratic Chinese context allows a wide range of grievances and opposition to big construction projects such as the Three Gorges Dam. The paper presents portraits of representative actors and analyzes interactions considering the political evolution over the last thirty years.

Paper long abstract:

In a changing political context such as in China, how were actors involved in debates surroundings such a big hydraulic project as the Three Gorges Dam? What were the impacts of this project on the people's means of action in this non-democratic environment?

In the 1980's, the Three Gorges Dam was open to public debate, but after 1989, in Mainland China, no more contestation was allowed. The project was voted in 1992 and achieved by 2009 - a period of great soci-eco-political change.

This paper discusses various actors involved or reacting to this hydroelectric project: from international institutions and firms, to national officials, environmentalists, scholars or journalists and local people affected by its consequences. We aim at presenting the evolution of these actors' interactions throughout the 30 years of the project implementation, a time witnessing new means of communication (like Internet), new actors (like lawyers, and NGO) and an increase of people awareness of their rights.

Relying on intensive fieldwork and data collected from 2000 to 2014, we will present an overview of this evolution through portraits of representative actors.

The first part analyses national and international actor's motives and means of action before and after 1989. In a second part, examining three districts upstream of the Dam we show the gap between contexts, and emphases the specific means, legal or not, that local people used to raise their grievances. The last part considers religious practices, legends and geomancy as subsidiary and meaningful tools used by people to participate in the general debate.

Panel P014
Building promises: how international, state and local actors collaborate on public construction projects in non-democratic environments