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Assemblage Theory (AT) and the Future of Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in Kalimpong, India:

Authors: Peter McGowran*, King's College London
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Cultural and Political Ecology, Mountain Environments
Keywords: Disaster, Risk Management, DRR, Adaptation, Landslides, Hazards, Risk, India, Himalayas, Resilience, DRR, Climate Justice, Assemblage, Deleuze, Future
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the year 2000, landslides have claimed 23 lives in newly formed Kalimpong district. Despite a downward trend of landslide-fatalities, landslides continue to cause significant disruption and loss each monsoon season. Despite this, DRM receives very little political attention (Rumbach and Németh, 2018). The political imagination of the district revolves around a yearning for political self-determination, following decades marginalisation during the British Raj and subsequently under the rule of the West Bengal state government (Chettri, 2017). This struggle has only managed to deliver an incomplete decentralisation, where the panchayat system doesn’t function and an unaccountable and powerless autonomous council struggles to plug the space left behind (Middleton and Shneiderman, 2018). Meanwhile, and partly because of this fractured political landscape, multi-hazard disaster risk (Gill and Malamud, 2017) in Kalimpong is exacerbated by rapid and unplanned urbanisation, underpinned by a rise in tourist numbers and increasing rural-urban migration (Brown, Ganguly-Scrase and Scrase, 2016; Rumbach and Follingstad, 2018). Research into DRM and extensive risks in small urban centres, such as Kalimpong, is in demand (Rumbach, 2016; UNDRR, 2019).
This presentation will come after the speaker’s PhD fieldwork. It will reflect on the ‘DRM Assemblage’ conceptual framework adopted – a synthesis of assemblage theory (AT) (DeLanda 2016) (DeLanda, 2016) and ‘DRM as sustainable development’ thinking (Collins, 2009; Lavell and Maskrey, 2014). It’s argued that this conceptual framework’s focus on ‘futures-in-the-making’ (Groves, 2017) can strengthen research into the politics of DRM and the materialisation of alternative urban futures. Initial findings will also be discussed.

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