The Art of Not Being Freshened: The Everyday Politics of Infrastructure in the Mekong Delta

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With the growing threat of climate change, states are increasingly turning to large-scale infrastructure projects in order to control environmental conditions, especially in coastal areas. These projects are often planned and implemented in a centralized, top-down manner and sometimes fail to achieve their stated objectives in the face of “everyday resistance” from local residents and farmers. This study draws on interviews and secondary research to examine the contentious everyday politics of infrastructure in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, focusing specifically on how small-scale, surreptitious acts of “counter-infrastructuring” on the part of farmers, such as the construction of illicit wells and shrimp ponds, have undermined the top-down policy of “freshening” the coastal zone through the construction of large water-control works (namely, the Ba Lai dam). By elucidating the motives for farmer resistance, which are primarily economic rather than explicitly political, and the covert and largely uncoordinated means farmers employ to resist and subvert state infrastructure, this study contributes to our understanding of environmental politics in Vietnam and more broadly, with implications for the future viability of large-scale infrastructure projects, such as those aimed at adapting to climate change and sea-level rise in coastal regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5494
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • aquaculture
  • climate change
  • infrastructure
  • livelihoods
  • politics
  • resistance


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