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The politics of hydropower: a study of the main drivers behind the resurgence of the hydropower sector in the Global South.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

"The University of Reading, Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, seeks to appoint a postgraduate student to carry out innovative research exploring the politics of large hydropower plants (henceforth, HPPs). The successful candidate will critically explore and disentangle the various discourses employed by political and economic elites to promote and justify the realisation of HPPs, identifying and categorising the main drivers and economic forces behind the hydropower sector. Following a decline in their number from the 1970s onwards, HPPs are now back on the global agenda and are being presented as a key source of renewable energy. Hundreds of new, extremely costly, and controversial projects have thus been launched in the last few years on the Global South, and this trend is escalating.

Large HPPs occupy a well-defined geographical space and yet they have a number of manifest consequences at various levels. For local populations, these will include landscape changes, loss of cultural heritage sites, and resettlement policies. At the country level, a large HPP will have an impact on state budgets, irrigated land, flood control, and electricity generation. At the wider river basin level, a large HPP will influence the amount of water flowing to other basin riparians, and consequently will have strategic and geopolitical consequences for the parties involved. In a time marked by increasing attention to, and concern over, a pending water crisis worldwide, it is essential to further delve into the motives behind a government’s decision to engage in the construction of these controversial megaprojects.

We seek applicants with an excellent academic track-record, a keen and critical intellect and (preferably) some work experience in NGOs or International Organizations. The successful candidate will be responsible for identifying its own case study (or case studies), even though it is suggested that this will include one or more of the countries which are currently leading the way in the hydropower sector and in the propagation of a pro-hydropower discourse: Brazil, China, India, Ethiopia, and Tajikistan. Theoretically, we would look favourably at candidates with a demonstrable interest in critical theory, political ecology, historical materialism, and assemblage theory.

Funding Notes


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