Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Anthropology

First Advisor

Lisa Mitchell

Abstract

This dissertation is a historical and ethnographic study of the politics of everyday security in the Kudremukh region of southern India, where a state iron-ore mine was decommissioned after activists cited threats to the area’s ecology. Building on security as the basic desire for ongoing economic and ecological stability, I examine how individuals and communities enact environmental projects and the search for livelihood in zones where mineral resources overlap with biodiversity. The dissertation analyzes—and yet qualifies—the ways in which material and discursive forms of work in such contexts come to be presented with ethical urgency. Drawing on twenty-one months of ethnographic fieldwork across the Kudremukh, Mangalore, Bengaluru regions in India, interviews with mining employees, residents, conservationists, environmentalists, and biologists, and a wide range of primary materials including speeches, protest letters, and historical newspapers, the project illustrates how efforts to secure stability take the form of theorizing work as making value in ways that are not exhausted by the logics of commodity or exchange. Such enactments of value, I argue, rely on reconceptions of landscape, extraction, eco-tourism, multispecies relations, conservation, and biodiversity. The project makes two interventions at this crossing of discourses: 1) It offers an analysis of environmental security derived from the ethical work of diverse actors and their dynamic relations with non-human life in such post-extraction sites 2) Attending to the dynamics of class, caste, and gender, the project shows how the quest for secure futures, even as it reinforces older forms of hierarchy and exclusion, brings into being new ecologies and new social mobilities.

Embargoed

Available to all on Sunday, September 14, 2025

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