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The Ghost in the Machine: Deconstructing Forest Policy Discourse in Bangladesh

By examining Bangladesh's principal forest policy documents from a discourse perspective, this study argues that the State's policy response to the "problems" and "development of the forestry sector" has been rhetorically loaded but politically cautious, covert and calculated. Under the conditions of governmentality, the policy prescriptions are presented as technical instruments for promoting efficiency in the forestry sector. The power and politics inherent in this exercise are constantly cloaked; yet these are pervasive, and find expression in their ability to serve certain practical purposes.

SPECIAL ARTICLE

The Ghost in the Machine

Deconstructing Forest Policy Discourse in Bangladesh

Niaz Ahmed Khan, Barbara Harriss-White

By examining Bangladesh’s principal forest policy documents from a discourse perspective, this study argues that the State’s policy response to the “problems” and “development of the forestry sector” has been rhetorically loaded but politically cautious, covert and calculated. Under the conditions of governmentality, the policy prescriptions are presented as technical instruments for promoting efficiency in the forestry sector. The power and politics inherent in this exercise are constantly cloaked; yet these are pervasive, and find expression in their ability to serve certain practical purposes.

The research which informs this paper was supported by a Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship offered to the fi rst named author by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom. An earlier version of the paper was included in the Queen Elizabeth House Working Paper Series, University of Oxford (Khan 2009). The usual disclaimer applies.

Niaz Ahmed Khan (niaz.khan@yahoo.com) teaches development studies at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, in addition to being a Senior Commonwealth Fellow, Oxford Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford. Barbara Harriss-White (barbara.harriss-white@qeh.ox.ac.uk) teaches development studies, Oxford Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.

1 Introduction

A
dapting the famous metaphor from Koestler (1967), Shore and Wright (1997) viewed and explored policy as the “ghost in the machine”, and argued that: “[policy] is the force which breathes life and purpose into the machinery of government and animates the otherwise dead hand of bureaucracy” (ibid: 5). In this essay, we attempt to shed light on the much spirited ghost of forest policy within the bureaucratic machine in Bangladesh by examining offi cial policy discourse.

Bangladesh’s official forest policy is expressed in two key government documents produced under the purview of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF): the National Forest Policy (NFP) 1994 (GOB 1995), and the Forestry Master Plan (FMP): Main Plan 1993-2012 (GOB 1994).1 The research reported here is based on an examination of these two texts.

The research presented here is significant for a number of reasons. First, research on forest policy in Bangladesh is strikingly limited.2 The existing literature is predominantly technical in nature and a discourse analysis of forest policy has not been done before. Second, the last two decades have witnessed an upsurge of appreciation of the various forms and tools of discourse analysis to understand development practice.3 Any attempt to contribute to this global body of knowledge, especially the sharing of experiences and observations from the South, is a worthwhile exercise. Third, the general significance of policy and associated discourse analyses are now unequivocally established. Shore and Wright, among many others, make the case as follows:

Policy has become an increasingly central concept and instrument in the organisation of contemporary societies. Like the modern state (to which its growth can be linked), policy now impinges on all areas of life so that it is virtually impossible to ignore or escape its infl uence. ...Policy language and discourse provides a key to analysing the architecture of modern power relations (Shore and Wright 1997: 4, 14).

Fourth, within the tradition of discourse analysis, “policy documents” as analytical material have received special scholarly attention.4 This paper contributes to the sub-fi eld.

This essay is organised in four sections. The following section reviews the key literature on policy as discourse and the associated analytical tools. Section 3 examines Bangladesh forest policy texts from a discourse perspective. In the last section we recapitulate our main arguments and argue for increased research in this relatively underexplored topic.

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2 Policy as Discourse

Although Gasper and Apthorpe have convincingly argued that “discourse analysis of policy-stating – arguing and – justifying provides a rewarding way to consider development policy” (1996: 1), the concept of “discourse” and the method of “discourse analysis” defy a universal definition, such that the range of definitions suggested are bedevilled with idiosyncrasy (Potter and Wetherell 1994; White 1994). Based on a substantial review of literature, Gasper and Apthorpe (1996: 2-6) collated the major contemporary uses of the term “discourse”:

(i) as an ensemble of ideas, concepts and categories through which meaning is given to phenomena; (ii) as an extended stretch of language or an extended discussion within a particular intellectual framework; (iii) as conversation, debate, exchange; (iv) as practice and theory – material activity which transforms nature and society and the modes of thought that i nform this action; (v) as a modernist regime order of knowledge and disciplinary power.

In the broad theoretical realm of “policy as discourse”, the tradition of “genealogical and discursive” approaches to the understanding of policy occupies a special place, and the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault manifestly stand out.5 Lemert and Gillan summarise Foucauldian views on d iscourse related to policy thus:

Roughly put, discourse is simply language practiced. … However, as a more inclusive instance of language use, its analysis is limited neither to the customary elements of linguistics (semantics and grammar) nor to linguistic’s basic units (the sentence, the proposition). Discourse, therefore, is susceptible to analysis in relation to the other aspects of social life: politics, culture, economics, and social institutions (Lemert and Gillan 1982: 129-30).

Foucault approached policy as governmentality. Governmentality refers to a series of regulatory strategies that are heterogeneous, indirect, and concerned with the operations of power in modern society (McNay 1994: 117-18).

The analysis of governmentality, Foucault argued, requires an examination of political technologies as this is one major “tactic” by which power is exercised without making it too

o bvious. “Political technologies” are rational, modern structures, systems and relationships of government that have disciplinary effects, and that provide for the methods by which a political problem is recast as a scientific or technical one (ibid: 113-17; Fernandez 2008: 52-53).

Since the 1980s, the new policy literature drawing on Foucault, especially on his ideas of “governmentality” and the associated “tactics” such as “political technologies” has offered new trajectories of analyses, further elaborations and empirical insights. One dominant theme within these later works is pioneered by Schaffer (1984)6 who viewed public policy as political practice. Lamb elucidates Schaffer’s view:

...public policy [is] a political process, a process of struggle not only about content of policy – good vs bad, as it were – but also about the agenda or the terrain of policy discussions: who controlled it, how and why? (Lamb 1985: 515).

In this context, Schaffer coined the term “bureaucratics” to refer to the “politics of bureaucracy”, and suggested “policy is a matter of bureaucratic” (Schaffer 1984: 185-86). Besides

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e xploring these themes, the new wave of policy studies draws our attention to a number of other aspects of the analysis of policy as discourse, some of which are particularly relevant to the purpose of this study.

First, while examining policies as discourse, one needs to be aware of the critical “role of language…to understand the ways in which the choice of a set of words, concepts, symbols, stylistic devices and arguments operates to frame, legitimate, and/or contest policy” (Fernandez 2008: 53).

Second, as noted above, policies often entail a depoliticising effect arising out of the use of “rational” and “scientifi c” language to legitimise policy decisions and intervention by dominant institutional apparatus (Gasper and Apthorpe 1996; E scobar 1995; Ferguson 1990; Harriss-White 2002; Schaffer 1984; Wood 1985a).

Third, in the formulation and practice of policy, some linguistic and stylistic devices are used. A careful examination of these devices is crucial, because these produce meanings in policy discourse:

  • Framing concerns the construction of “problems” to be tackled by the intervention, and its logical relation to the generation of “solutions” proposed. In the framing exercise, a particular structure of arguments about policy problems and solutions is presented, and “alternative arguments and problems/ solutions are foreclosed” (Fernandez 2008: 53).
  • Development policy discourses often use tropes – fi gures of speech, where words are not used in their literal sense, for example, use of metaphors in descriptions: “describ[ing] something as something else, to imply a similarity” (Gasper and Apthorpe 1996: 7). Use of tropes often serves the political purposes of creating deliberate fuzziness, where tropes are subject to multiple meanings and where they mask the political elements in the subject concerned.
  • Policies also often adopt a storytelling or narrative structure which wrap selective information, definition and views of problems, solutions and priorities, and serve as a medium for communicating and making accessible a framework of meanings of that particular discourse (Apthorpe 1986; Gasper and Apthorpe 1996; Roe 1989, 1991).
  • Labelling is a “way of referring to the process by which policy agendas are established and more particularly the way in which people, conceived as objects of policy, are defi ned in convenient images” (Wood 1985c: 343).
  • Similarly, keywords are used as banners and slogans in s upport of the intervention and actions proposed by a particular policy. Another related style in policy discourse involves polar words or binary couples to refer to and construct “problems” and propose “solutions”7 (Apthorpe 1996; Gasper and Apthorpe 1996).
  • Fourth, the mainstream rationalist public policy model views public policy as a dichotomous linear process with two distinct but sequential phases: “The process begins with a d ecision or a sequence of activities which culminate in a decision. The d ecision also constitutes a ‘policy’. Then there is a break. On the other side of this divide is ‘policy implementation’ ” (Clay and Schaffer 1984: 3).

    This dichotomy provides for the deployment by policymakers and bureaucrats of escape hatches – justifi cation provided for known causes of policy failure – and a host of other manipulative procedures to shirk responsibility for the outcomes of these policy practices.

    In our (re)reading of the forest policy of Bangladesh we have had to be selective in the use of these theoretical and analytical ideas, tools and considerations. For reasons of tractability, in particular, this research explores the following core concepts:

  • Concepts and manifestations of “governmentality” and its associated tactics, notably “political technologies”.
  • The process and consequences of “depoliticisation”, and the apolitical representation of (essentially political) subjects in policies.
  • The application of rhetorical, linguistic and stylistic devices and their effects on the construction or description of politics in policy documents.
  • Our choice of these three themes is influenced by two factors. First, they constitute the core of the mainstream (especially Foucauldian) analysis of policy discourse as a political process. Second, they can be studied through an examination of policy documents and secondary literature. They inform our exploration of the policy documents at the core of this p aper, and we summarise findings relevant to them in the conclusion.

    3 Re-Reading Bangladesh Forest Policy as a Discourse

    In this section, we deconstruct Bangladesh forest policy discourse. Its “narrative structure” is that of a policy “folktale” (Roe 1989, 1991). In their 1996 paper, Gasper and Apthorpe (1996: 9)8 outline the standard sequence of such a “folktale”:

    A problem (often a ‘crisis’) is encountered; it will be ‘solved’ through the epic endeavour of a hero (the project/policy), who faces and overcomes a series of trials (constraints), and then lives happily ever after.

    In the case of Bangladesh forestry, the logic of the narrative flows as follows:

    Presentation of a (grave) “Crisis” => requiring (immediate and urgent) “Solution” => the form must be a (technical, apolitical) “Intervention” => the intervention will require certain “Preconditions” to be met => it must be led and managed by “Technically Qualifi ed Experts” and “Specialists” => once the intervention is planned and formulated, its actual “Implementation” process will have to be separately prepared and executed.

    In this narrative order, we examine the key purport, phases and underlying message of forest policy discourse in Bangladesh.

    3.1 The Plan, the Protagonists and Their Legitimacy

    In its introduction, the FMP has the following to say about the key authors and actors in the planning exercise: Plan preparation was by a 26-man team of local counterparts, national and international consultants spanning a 20-month period from October 1991 to May 1993. Ministry of Environment and Forests seconded a part time Project Director, four fulltime and four part time counterparts. Three long-term counterparts came from the Bangladesh Forest Department and one was from the Department of Environment. B angladesh Forest Research Institute provided two of the short term

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    counterparts and Bangladesh Forest Industries Development Corporation two. Bangladesh Consultants Ltd and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations fielded six and three national c onsultants, respectively. FAO has also provided two international consultants while Sandwell Inc and Reid Collins Ltd supplied seven specialists, including the Team Leader (GOB 1994: 1).

    Evidently, the FMP has been an exclusive performance of “specialists”, “consultants” and “counterparts”. The institutional “partners” in this exercise were the Asian Development Bank,9 United Nations,10 and Government of Bangladesh. Those who the document term “counterparts” are in fact c areer government officials, a good number of whom are forestry specialists themselves.

    So FMP was developed by a group of technical experts with virtually no institutional involvement of other social interests: non-governmental organisations (NGOs), pressure groups, l obbies, forest-dependent rural communities and indigenous peoples, academics and/or researchers. There is no evidence to suggest any involvement of political parties at any stage of policy formulation.

    The NFP document arose from the suggestions and recommendations of the team responsible for formulating the FMP. The FMP contained detailed analyses of policy and provided the draft policy text to the government. Subsequently, the government endorsed the draft text and its recommendations, and formally announced the policy (NFP). Except for cosmetic editing, the content and spirit of the NFP are drawn from the FMP. In the NFP preamble, its genealogy is explicit:

    In the…draft Forestry Master Plan proposals/suggestions have been put forth to amend the National Forestry Policy 1979 after detailed examination and evaluation of it in light of demand of the time and overall prevailing conditions in the forest sector… [I]n the light of the above mentioned proposals and suggestions [made by FMP] National Forestry Policy 1994 has been formulated (GOB 1995: 1-2).

    Although the government is quick to claim authorship of both documents (NFP and FMP), a careful reading of the textual evidences reveals otherwise. The opening sentence of the FMP reads: “[The] Government of Bangladesh, assisted by [the] Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme, is preparing a long term plan to preserve and develop the nation’s forest resources” (GOB 1994: 1). In the first two paragraphs of the NFP, the government claims to have “formulated” the policy, but subsequently, in paragraph 9, the document reads: “the government has expressed desire to adopt the following things as a part of the National Forest Policy” (GOB 1995: 2, emphasis added). The “following things” refer to the draft texts prepared and forwarded by the FMP consultants for “adoption” by the government.

    Notwithstanding such claims by the government, the plan and the policy were mainly authored by a group of international and national consultants and experts, and the role of government was reduced to endorsing and formally approving a document already drafted.

    In many parts of the two texts, policies are portrayed as “most essential” for the resolution of “many problems” in the “forestry sector”. Both FMP and NFP argue that the “development”

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    of the forestry sector therefore calls for the formulation of “appropriate” plans and policies by the government. Without the government’s active interest and intervention, these documents tell us, the “development” of the forestry sector and the “tackling” of grave “problems” is simply “not possible”. The FMP further claims that one main reason for the dismal condition of the country’s forestry sector is because governments have neglected it: “Bangladesh’s forestry has traditionally received very little government attention and as a result the policy, legislation, forest industries, research and forest i nstitutions and management are not effective” (GOB 1994: 30).

    Examples of this “peculiar privileging” (Ferguson 1990) of the role of government and government policy abound in both documents. Under the spell of what Ferguson terms governmentalist assumption, it is argued that, “whatever changes have or have not happened in [the country] are to be explained by reference to government policy; …stagnation is due to government inaction and ‘development’ results from ‘development’ projects” (ibid: 36-37).

    A policy and the particular solution that it entails (solving the crisis in the forestry sector through development scenarios) are then presented as inevitable and essential; the possibility of any other alternatives or choices are removed, leaving just one “appropriate path”. Schaffer (1984: 185) warns about the implications of this style of policy argument:

    There is seductive danger in any discourse about public policy which presents its practices as inevitable and unproblematic. That, after all, obstructs the question of responsibility, either for not pursuing alternatives, or for what is discussed and what is done.

    For some, however, there are clear advantages from the “danger” of the “governmentalist assumption” and “policy privileging”. First, this style of policy practice helps make a rational case for justifying government intervention in a neutral and apolitical fashion through “various forestry projects” – the solutions to the problem of “forest resource depletion”. Second, policies are presented as “appropriate” and “essential”. Evidence of this phenomenon, what Gasper calls prescriptive essentialism11 can be found in the NFP and FMP. Third, this e ssentialist, prescriptive style continues “to call not just for v irtuous policy means but provision of its prerequisites for success” (Gasper 1996a: 160). These prerequisites are prominently featured in FMP and NFP, and serve, as we discuss ahead, not only to expand state power, but also to mask accountability.

    3.2 The Crisis

    Bangladesh’s forest “crisis” is labelled as loss of forest cover; it is explained by a growing population and ineffective enforcement of law. Here are some relevant excerpts from the documents (FMP and NFP):

    Historically, a rapidly expanding population, combined with inadequate management undermined the forest resources of Bangladesh. In the interest of the health and welfare of the Nation, therefore, it is necessary to reverse the trend of forest resource depletion and to promote expansion, conservation and sustainable management of this valuable resource (GOB 1994: 37). Forest went unprotected because of population pressure on one hand and lack of law enforcement on the other (ibid: 13). …abnormal and quick depletion of forestry resources owing to numerous socio-economic factors… (GOB 1995: 1).

    Despite considerable ambiguity and value judgments, the essence of the “crisis” is distilled as: “forest resource depletion”, “deforestation”, “dwindling resource”, etc. The crisis is exacerbated by other related “problems” such as “inadequate management”, “lack of scientific management”, and “lack of appropriate policy/guidelines”.

    In the NFP’s framing of the problem of “forest depletion” or “deforestation”, some facts and information are deliberately included and others are excluded. “(S)ocio-economic factors” appear once12 and are not developed. Studies of Bangladesh forestry have identified some of them, including:

  • Organised commercial logging by a powerful alliance between private loggers, local government offi cials, political party bosses and other public officials mainly from the forest, police and land revenue departments;
  • Widespread corruption, complicity with the commercial exploitation of forests, and inefficiency on the part of the government agencies, especially the forest department;
  • Table 1: Selected Examples of Political Technologies Observed in the NFP and FMP

    The Problems Conceived Examples of the Issues Cloaked Technical Strategies Proposed “Deforestation”; Governmental corruption and connivance; the alliance amongst the “Afforestation”; “reforestation”; “planned plantation” “Depleting forests”, etc, vested interest groups of political elites, loggers, local government in various types of land; “reservation”, “silvicultural offices; historical process of state-sponsored commercialisation and improvement” for more production, etc. the resultant alienation of forest-based local communities. “Deficiency in forest Disempowering destruction of customary/traditional rights “Scientific management”; “Sound management”; administration”; (of forest-based communities) by law and bureaucratic discretion; “Sustained management”; “strengthening the forest “Inadequate expansion of bureaucratic regime and turf; failure of the forestry department”; “establishment of new social forestry management” institutions to learn and adopt participatory working style and populist department”; “amendment/promulgation of laws, values; elite value orientation of public officials. rules and regulations”, etc. “Unorganised” public sector Misuse of the historical public subsidies and patronisation provided by Making the industries “profit oriented business” by forest industries the state; political and external influences on the working of the following the principles of “free market economy”, industries; widespread inefficiency and corruption; turf battle among “new technology” and “economic rationalisation in various industries, and between industries and their controlling inputs and outputs”. (“reporting”) ministries. “Lack of people’s Devising rules and procedures for defining, categorising, and controlling Expansion of “participatory forestry” “involving target participation” various “target groups” while distributing the benefits and services; groups” through various such “mechanisms” as “group political processes at work in the day-to-day working of such “groups”; formation”, “land tenure/lease agreements”, “benefit structural dynamics of Bangladeshi society that regulate local people’s sharing schemes”, “seed/seedlings supply”, “inputs”, access to decisions and use of public resources; class differentiation; “women involvement”, “credit facilities”, “marketing patronage dynamics as they affect resource distribution, etc. forest products”, etc. Economic & Political Weekly april 28, 2012 vol xlviI no 17 103
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  • Complicated land tenure and record management systems;
  • Historical enmity between forest-based local societies and the government agencies they encounter;
  • Progressive weakening of local rights, exclusionary policies, and the imposition of stringent regulation of policing and r eservation;
  • Custodial and authoritative modes of public forest management (BRAC 1986; Khan 1998a; Rasul 2007).
  • Analysts have often revealed the tendency of policy discourse to frame problems in a particular way to suit certain institutions or interests, to mask political elements, and distinguish some aspects of a situation rather than others (see Gasper and Apthorpe 1996: 8; Hajer 1993: 45). Throughout the FMP and NFP many examples of such political technologies may be observed (Table 1, p 103).

    The FMP and NFP continue to promote the commercialisation of forestry. Equipped with effective political technologies, this process is masked by rational and technical language and embellished with tropes. For example, instead of “revenue maximisation” through the systematic commercialisation of forestry practices and products, the NFP chooses to declare: “the management of forestlands will be brought under profi toriented business”.13 Profit-oriented business is not only a fi gurative trope; for all practical purposes it gives a free licence to the government forestry institutions to go all-out for commercialisation and revenue optimisation. In the same vein, the NFP stipulates to “bring state owned forest based industries to competitive and profit-oriented management system under the free market economy”.14 Here, the phrase “free market economy” connotes the forces of supply and demand. It conveniently masks the political, historical, non-economic and extramarket processes that influence and regulate the performance of public sector forest industries. Examples of these processes include: patronage by ruling political elites and other political influences on industry, endemic governance ineffi ciency and corruption, subsidies and protection provided historically by the state to the industries, and the impact and effects of government policies – notably the official ban of extraction of timber jeopardising regular flow of raw materials (BRAC 1986; Khan 1998a; Rasul 2007).

    Besides framing the major “crisis” in the above terms, the documents point out a number of other associated “problems” and their possible “solutions” through means of polar words and binary couples. Frequent references are made to “forest d epletion” as the problem, and “massive afforestation” as the solution. Other examples include:

  • “Wastage in extraction and processing of forest products” => “modern and appropriate technology”.15
  • “Tribal people … grab[bing] the forestland at will” => “Impart[ing] ownership of certain amount of land through f orest settlement process. The rest of the forestland [to be] brought under permanent protection”.16
  • “Scarcity of wood in the country” => “Ban on extraction of timber” and “ban on export of logs”.17
  • As Gasper and Apthorpe noted, “[n]othing seems more bold, resolute and brilliant than to put things sometimes literally into ‘black’ and ‘white’, and then to proceed wholly on dualism’s face values” (1996: 7). However, nearly all of the above simplistic, binary assumptions and practices can be, and in some cases have already been, challenged. Let us examine just one item in the list: the “land-grabbing tribals”.

    Government documents have historically blamed forestdependent indigenous communities, “tribals”, for “grabbing forestland” for shifting cultivation which degrades forest r esources.18 We now have growing evidence from various parts of south Asia to refute this simplistic argument.19 One cogent conclusion comes from Rasul in his detailed study of the impact of forest policy changes in eastern Bangladesh:

    Indigenous people have widely been blamed for degrading South Asia’s montane forest resources through the practice of shifting cultivation, yet [historical] studies reveal that indigenous people used forests in a sustainable way for centuries until external intervention… Shifting cultivation is not solely responsible for deforestation. Many factors including national policies and laws are responsible for this situation. The process of deforestation originated during the British colonial period, with the pursuit of revenue generation through nationalisation forests, weakening traditional institutions and alienating indigenous people from traditional forest management (Rasul 2007: 153, 160).

    Notwithstanding this regional and local evidence, the government has continued and further extended these policies. Although they fail to stand up to the stated goal (addressing the “problems” of wood, illicit logging and encroachment/ deforestation), they contribute to the rationality of government, or to adopt Foucault’s terminology, governmentality, by providing the raison d’être for the forest department and other relevant government agencies (the police, for example) to r emain active and present in forests through such actions as pursuing “offenders”, “enforcing” the rule, and, more generally, “keeping things going [and] still being here tomorrow”.20

    3.3 Eden and the Epic Endeavour

    The FMP builds two “essential development scenarios” of the country’s “future” of forestry vis-à-vis the “present day or status quo conditions and practices”. The scenarios represent the end result (“solution”) of government policies and actions: “High Development” and “Optimum Development”. These are the “Eden” where the NFP and FMP’s proposed “epic endeavour” will lead all forest interests to “live happily ever after” (Gasper and Apthorpe 1996: 9). The FMP explains:

    Scenario 1 represents the low development alternative and Scenario 2 the high development option. Scenario 1 adds additional money and peoples and retains existing systems, technology, institutional structures, working methods, laws and regulations, but allow a slight change in any of these areas. Scenario 2 represents optimum development and adopts relevant new technology, incorporates necessary institutional changes to achieve goals and targets (GOB 1994: 15-16).

    “Adopting” one of these “development scenarios”, we are told, is “absolutely essential”, if the country’s “forestry sector in crisis” is to have any chance of “development” (ibid: 15-17).

    In prescribing “solutions”, a “management perspective” is also clearly noticeable in the documents. Most problems are posited in a way which can be “managed” and call for “rational” managers, “experts” who can manage. In discussing the “problem” of

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    shifting cultivation by “tribals”, the FMP (GOB 1994: 41), for example, notes: “…the problem is manageable, if approached rationally”. Similarly, in both the documents, r epeated references are made to “scientific management”, “sustained resource management”, “sound management”, etc. Indeed, the term “scientifi c management” originated in the early years of the formation of the forest department in British India in the 19th century, and has ever since been consistently used as a keyword in forest policy and plan d ocuments, most commonly in the “forest working plans”.21

    In sum, to reach Eden the endeavour takes the form of the “deployment of development” (Escobar 1995; Ferguson 1990), which characteristically cleaves asunder the roles of planning and implementing, and packages problems (many of which are political rather than technical in nature) in technocratic and managerial terms. This is the way sociological and political ignorance construes objects for development interventions. In so doing, a “rational” and “scientific” institutional apparatus creates an avenue for the exercise of its power.

    3.4 The Trials and the Preconditions

    Reaching Eden is not easy; the endeavour calls for tests, trials and many preconditions to be fulfilled. Development policy discourses, as noted earlier, not only call for “virtuous policy means” but also the provision of its “prerequisites for success” (Gasper 1996a: 160).

    The NFP proffers five such “preconditions for the development of the forestry sector” (GOB 1995: 3). Without meeting these “preconditions”, it is argued, “development” will not be “forthcoming”. The conditions are:

  • (i) The provision of “several commodities and services which are essential for fulfilment of the basic needs of the people”.
  • (ii) The “equitable distribution of benefits among the people”.
  • (iii) The “creation” of “scope of peoples participation in afforestation programme”.

  • (iv) “Long-term political commitment”.
  • (v) The “install[ation of] sound management of forestry resources” and “conserving the production capacity of these r esources” (ibid: 3).
  • These “preconditions” are suffused with naivety and r omanticism. Reviews of the political economy of rural Bangladesh point to the near impossibility of achieving such ambitious and largely unrealistic conditions. The structural and institutional characteristics of the rural socio-polity in Bangladesh inhibit the “equitable distribution” of “benefits and services” arising from development programmes, constrain any attempt to “fulfil the basic needs of people”, and pose formidable challenges for any “participatory” initiative. They are now well documented and known.22 Some of the features of Bangladesh’s political economy that have direct relevance to the forestry sector include:

  • Highly unequal access to natural and political resources;
  • an absence of alternative employment opportunities;
  • gross inequalities in social structure;
  • severe competition among unequal contenders for scarce resources, largely within a pervasive framework of “patronclient” and “caste/status” alliances;
  • a complex network of social relations that cut across different status groups and social classes;
  • lack of internal cohesiveness and only a residual degree of solidarity in villages.
  • Indeed, recent studies of social forestry in Bangladesh have presented convincing empirical evidence to show how these social and political conditions thwart the performance of social forestry as a “participatory programme”.23

    Given the sociopolitical ground realties, the “preconditions” and “constraints” mentioned in FMP and NFP remain abstracted, and face formidable problems in their own realisation. Why are these still pursued in the texts? At least two purposes may be served.

    First, they are posed as “preconditions” and “constraints” on which the performance and “delivery” of the policy depends. If these are not realised, the government (and relevant planners and protagonists) will attribute policy failure to the non-realisation of these preconditions. This may serve as escape hatches. Indeed, evidence of “escape hatches” pervades policy texts (Table 2).

    Second, the preconditions justify and warrant intervention by the government and associated development agencies.

    Table 2: Examples of Escape Hatches Found in the FMP and NFP

    Areas of Failures/Constraints/Inadequacies Mentioned Escape Hatches

    Ineffective protection Outdated laws/regulations; lenience in law application; not enough “regulatory devices”; “lack of effective policy”; “inadequate manpower”.*

    [Inadequacy in] mass awareness campaign “Inadequate manpower (in the forest department)”; “shortage of staff interested and [conscientisation] qualified in extension methods”; people’s “cultural barriers”; “poverty”. **

    [Limited] Women’s involvement “Traditional barriers in Bangladesh culture to full participation of women in socio-economic activities”.

    Depleting forest “Already extreme and rapidly increasing population pressure”; “harmful” activities of “land grabbers” and “encroachers”. ***

    [Lack of] long-term development outlook of the sector Lack of “long term political commitment”. ****

    [Low] degree of participation “No explicit government policy and/or legal guideline to support participatory development in forestry”; “grassroots groups have to connect with NGOs, public sector entities and private sector companies as necessary”. *****

    Unproductive use of unclassified state forests# “Existing tribal rights clouding land tenure situation”; “political situation” not favourable; “tribal people grab the forest land at will”. ******

    * FMP (GoB 1994: 30-33, 37-38, 47); NFP Statements 6 and 20 (GoB 1995). ** FMP (GoB 1994: 41-47); NFP Statements 7 and 20 (GoB 1995). *** FMP (GoB 1994: 30-33, 37-38, 47); NFP preamble, Objective 6, Statement 20 (GoB 1995). **** NFP Precondition 4 (GoB 1995). ***** FMP (GoB 1994: 42-43). # FMP (GoB 1994: 47). ****** FMP (GoB 1994: 41-47); NFP Statements 7 and 20 (GoB 1995).

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    They are a list of things or an agenda for action for the “development of the forestry sector”. Things that call for “creation” (of scope for participation), “distribution” (of commodities and services), “installation”, “provision”, etc. And the government’s forestry institutions are “rationally” suited to carry out these actions.

    3.5 The Heroes and the Redeemed

    The “deployment of development” calls for rational, scientifi c and technical problem-solving interventions which are best handled by relevant experts and managers in the government. Throughout the policy documents, the government’s role is thus portrayed as crucial, indispensable, immanent, and as the champion of public interest.

    In order to perform such roles, a case has to be made for “strengthening” and “capacity enhancement” of the relevant government institutions. NFP and FMP suggest a wide array of provisions to “strengthen” the forest department and other agencies associated with it. Examples of these provisions i nclude the following:

    Forest department will be strengthened in order to achieve the goals and objectives of National Forest Policy. A new department called ‘Department of Social Forestry’ will be established.24 The implementation of NFP will be supported by strengthening educational, training and research organisations. This will contribute to forestry sector development.25

    A special emphasis is placed on updating existing laws and formulating new “laws, rules and regulations”.26 Such punitive legal instruments have served to expand and fortify the administrative power and authority of the public forestry institutions. They have fuelled conflicts between forest staff and l ocal forest-based communities (Khan 1998a; Rasul 2007). The FMP however puts up an entirely different but “rational” and altruistic justification: “(a) viable efficient legal system is very important for effective implementation of policies and achievement of policy objectives” (GOB 1994: 119).

    The NFP lists some 29 activities (in the policy statement section) for “development of the forestry sector”. Most of these activities are to be carried out by the government. They are typically described by phrases such as “tree plantation”, “massive afforestation” and “special afforestation”.

    Frequent use of keywords like “afforestation” immediately makes the role of technical experts (foresters) relevant and r ational: afforestation is best done by “foresters”. Additionally, by referring to the large volume or scale or specialised nature (“massive”, “special”, etc) of the operation, a case is made for calling in a large, specialist institutional apparatus (that is, the government in general, and the forest department in particular).

    Implicit in the above “statements” of NFP is also the assumption that only the government forestry organisations have the necessary technical expertise and specialised inputs that are not substitutable and generously offered to the public “in the greater interest of the nation”.

    On reading these texts, one is thus left with no ambiguity as to the identification of the “heroes” – the institution(s) in charge: the government, more particularly, the forest department and

    106 its associated agencies. The FMP declares its stance on the matter in no obscure terms: “[The] focus was”, we are told, “on institutional factors – policy, education and training and a dministrative structures” (GOB 1994: 1).

    Where do “people” fit into the scheme? They are, as we shall see in the following paragraphs, the “target” of development to be redeemed by the heroes. These “targets” are described in the documents by means of various labels: “groups”, “benefi ciaries”, “landless”, “poor”, “tribal”, etc. They are “recipients”, “clients”, “claimants” or “participants” of the forestry development programmes. Put differently, as Wood (1985b: 355-56) noted, people are transformed into objects of intervention.27 An examination of the use of such labels in the documents r eveals some interesting features.

    First, the “target group” labels are used in a way that presents these groups as isolated and compartmentalised entities (for example, “tribals”, “resident population”) and takes no cognisance of the deep-rooted structures and relations of patronage, exploitation, dependency, poverty and oppressive power that cut across these entities. Presenting the “targets” as delinked from these sociopolitical and economic structures and relations serves a purpose for the forestry institutions and the government as a whole. As Wood explains in another context:

    In most programmes in Bangladesh, this delinking enables the poor to be recognised as fragmented objects of a policy of partial interventions – the recipients of skill training, credit and services, ghettoed into small scale, income generating activities, an entrepreneurial model in which significant success could only possibly be enjoyed by a few and thereby absorbed without overall structural change (Wood 1985b: 470).

    Second, the target group terminology also has visibility ( Escobar 1995) and legitimacy (Wood 1985a). The moral i mperative of reaching out to various “disadvantaged target groups” helps legitimise the intervention of the “forestry s ector development”.

    Third, labels also play a role in facilitating access (for example, Schaffer and Lamb 1974) by imposing and determining rules and regulations, characteristics of categorisation and functions of the potential recipients (Wood 1985a, 1985b).

    Fourth, labels and mechanisms are also a lever for the g overnment’s management of “institutional scarcity”. The r esources and means (for example, inputs such as seedlings, parcels of land, services like technical advice, training) are e xtremely limited compared with the need. So, “mechanisms” are required to manage the “problem” (of resource scarcity and the ever-increasing demand) and their “operation” (that is, the management and distribution of the goods and services). These reinforce the case for state control.

    4 Conclusions and Further Research

    The preceding discussion shows that the Bangladesh state’s policy response to the “problems” and “development of the f orestry sector” has been rhetorically loaded but politically covert, measured and cautious. This becomes clear as we r eturn to the core themes (governmentality and political technology; depoliticisation; and rhetorical and linguistic devices)

    april 28, 2012 vol xlviI no 17

    introduced in the second section. Throughout the reading of the policy texts these themes have manifested themselves v ividly. Our principal results may be summarised as follows:

    Governmentality and Political Technologies: Under the conditions of governmentality, policies are devised and pursued to serve certain systematic discursive and practical purposes, notably: as classificatory devices to categorise and name target groups and services rendered; as narratives to justify (or condemn) a particular scenario and course of action; as political technologies to depoliticise and shape “target group” conceptions and the distribution of limited services; as escape hatches to hive off difficult questions of responsibility and accountability; and as levers to muster and wield power on the part of the state.

    Depoliticisation and Apolitical Representation: The contents and subjects of the policies are systematically depoliticised. As part of a discursive regime, policies and plan prescriptions are construed as technical instruments to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the forestry sector. The power and politics inherent in this exercise are constantly being masked; yet they are pervasive, and find expression through labels and targets which shape and limit bureaucratic practices. The moral and ideological imperative of reaching out to the poor (“people’s participation”, “social equity”, etc), is presented in a way which justifies both intervention by the state and the techno-bureaucratic management of “problems” that “constrain people’s participation”.

    Rhetorical and Linguistic Devices, and Their Smoothing Effects: Policy texts calculatedly use various rhetorical devices and discursive formations that function to empower some (for example, public forestry officials) and silence others (for example, “land grabbers” and “encroachers”). This process is reinforced by the use of various tropes and target-group terminology which helps to legitimate this particular style of development intervention. The model of “forestry development” proposed in the “development scenarios” derives its irresistibility by creating fields of visibility around the “target groups” as “problems” to be solved and acted on. The domination of the state-led institutions is thus protected and bureaucratic power is fortifi ed.

    In its style and purport, forest policy discourse and the associated exercise of policy formulation may ultimately “contribute to [the] depoliticisation and the bureaucratisation of the society” (Schaffer 1984: 186). Here we have shown exactly how the development process is depoliticised and bureaucratised. As Evers (1987) observed in his major work on “the bureaucratisation of societies in south-east Asia”: equipped with political technologies and bureaucratics, policy discourse has relevance and implications for both the processes of “spread of formalised, rational administrative procedures” and “the extension of government control”. Indeed, a small literature on forest management in south Asia has already pointed to the processes and effects of bureaucratisation in many parts of the region (Khan 1998a; Poffenberger 1990).

    Three research questions immediately suggest themselves. First, the process of bureaucratisation is reinforced in an era when it confronts market ideology and pressures to commodify in general, and acute limits to the state’s regulative and developmental capacity in Bangladesh in particular. How and why is this possible? Second, the political technologies, depoliticisation and rhetorical devices revealed here have proceeded apace in Bangladesh in an era where development discourse has been extensively deconstructed internationally. Why has it been possible for forest policy discourse to be so unresponsive to the international critique? Third, why is forest policy so reluctant to engage with the lived realities of forest dwellers and their exploiters in Bangladesh? There has been no research apart from this on the subject of forest policy discourse in Bangladesh. The three research questions with which we end deserve immediate attention from development academics and activists. At present, the ghost in the machine looks well settled in Bangladesh (Wood 1985c), and it therefore makes sense to call in critical policy analysts – “ghostbusters” – to shed light on the ghost, and unravel its “shadow across reality”.

    Notes 11 Essentially, “to hold that a policy measure is 23 See, for example, Ahmed and Laarman (2000), 1 Hereafter, FMP or the Plan.

    inherently appropriate” (Gasper 1996a: 157). Akhter (2008), Chowdhury (2004), Khan

    12 In the preamble (GoB 1995: 1). (2008a, 2008b). Bangladesh’s forest policy. 13 NFP, Statement 10 (GoB 1995). 24 NFP, Statement 27 (GoB 1995).

    3 See, for example, Apthorpe (1986, 1996, 1997), 14 NFP, Statement 15 (ibid). 25 NFP, Statement 28 (ibid). Clay and Schaffer (1984), Crush (1995), Fern-15 NFP, Statement 13 (ibid). 26 See FMP (GoB 1994: 6-8, 119-20); NFP, Stateandez (2008), Gasper (1996a, 1996b), Gasper 16 NFP, Statement 20 (ibid). ment 29 (GoB 1995). and Apthorpe (1996), Potter and Wetherell 17 NFP, Statement 18 (ibid); FMP (GoB 1994: 27 Also see Apthorpe (1986).

    (1994), Seidel and Vidal (1997), Shore and 13-14). Wright (1997), Schaffer (1984), Van Dijk (1990),

    2 See Khan (2009) for a review of literature on

    18 See, the “Forest Working Plan” documents; for

    Wood (1985a, 1985b).

    example, Ahmad (1938) and Cowan (1923). References 4 See, for example, Pain (1996), Seidel and Vidal

    19 For example, Adnan (2011a, 2011b, 2011c), Adnan, S (2011a): “Mechanisms of Land Alienation (1997) and Shore and Wright (1997).

    Chhauchhuak (2004), Kerkhoff and Sharma

    of the Indigenous Peoples of the Chittagong 5 For example, Foucault (1975, 1977). (2006), Rasul (2005), Roy (1997).

    Hill Tracts”, Oxford University CSASP Work in 6 Also Clay and Schaffer (1984). 20 Lynn and Jay (1983: 116) cited in Shore and

    Progress Paper 14 (http://www.southasia.

    7 For an obvious example: “underdevelopment” Wright (1997: 10).

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    (1923). – (2011b): “Resistance to Land Grabbing by Poor 8 See also Apthorpe (1986). 22 See, for example, Blair (1978, 1982), Jansen Peasants and Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh: 9 ADB Technical Assistance # 1355-Bangladesh. (1986), Khan (1989), Tepper (1976), Van Schen-Implications for the Agrarian Question”, Oxford

    10 UNDP/FAO # BGD/88/025. del (1981), Westergaard (1985), White (1992), University CSASP: Work in Progress Paper 15.

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