mark tugman | the cooper union | 2014
How might the relationship between the rural population of Assam, India and the environment become a driver for social and political freedom?
This question requires us to see the environment not as a source of tyranny or the picturesque, but as a process by which social Identities are formed, and continuously re-formed. First, we must redefine the word ‘environment’ from a noun to a verb. The environment does not merely symbolize power relations and social hierarchies; it actively sustains them, it naturalises them, and by doing so, it has the capacity to challenge them.
In framing the investigation, it is necessary to draw on the environment with regard to its role in cultural history, social practices, law making, food production, water supply, shelter, sanitation, and education.
The need for such investigation is clear: the expansion of individual freedom and agency is both the primary end as well as the principle means of development. It is becoming increasingly clear that the global social constructs of the nation state, capitalism and sustainability are unable to recognise the crises of marginalisation occurring at geo-political borderlands such as the banks of Brahmaputra in upper Assam.
The implementation of this thesis begins with a critique of the rigid ideology of the embankment, and uses the results of this critique to drive the development of future social institutions that can operate on the contemporary knot of colonialism, capitalism, and sustainability, both from within and without simultaneously to expand the individual freedom, agency and participation of the rural population of Assam in their social and economic future. By working in reciprocity with naturally occurring processes, an economy of survival can be transformed into an economy based on empowerment.