The legitimation of risk and democracy: A case study of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, India

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Desmond, Elaine
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University College Cork
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This thesis explores the inter-related attempts to secure the legitimation of risk and democracy with regard to Bt cotton, a genetically modified crop, in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. The research included nine months of ethnographic fieldwork, extensive library and newspaper research, as well as university attendance in India, undertaken between June, 2010 and March, 2011. This comparative study (involving organic, NPM and Bt cotton cultivation) was conducted in three villages in Telangana, a region which was granted secession from Andhra Pradesh in July, 2013, and in Hyderabad, the state capital. Andhra Pradesh is renowned for its agrarian crisis and farmer suicides, as well as for the conflict which Bt cotton represents. This study adopts the categories of legitimation developed by Van Leeuwen (2007; 2008) in order to explore the theory of risk society (Beck, 1992; 1994; 1999; 2009), and the Habermasian (1996: 356-366) core-periphery model as means of theoretically analysing democratic legitimacy. The legitimation of risk and democracy in relation to Bt cotton refers to normative views on the way in which power should be exercised with regard to risk differentiation, construction and definition. The analysis finds that the more legitimate the exercise of power, the lower the exposure to risk as a concern for the collective. This also has consequences for the way in which resources are distributed, knowledge constructed, and democratic praxis institutionalised as a concern for social and epistemic justice. The thesis argues that the struggle to legitimate risk and democracy has implications not only for the constitution of the new state of Telangana and the region’s development, but also for the emergence of global society and the future development of humanity as a whole.
Risk , Democracy , India , Legitimation , Discourse analysis , Critical theory , Genetically modified crops
Desmond, E. 2013. The legitimation of risk and democracy: A case study of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, India. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.