More Than Meets The Eye: Re-Reading Forest Policy Discourse In Bangladesh

Date: Feb, 2009
ODID Working Paper No. 177
Author(s): Niaz Ahmed Khan (University of Dhaka)

This article attempts to deconstruct the Bangladesh forest policy discourse by examining its key purport, narrative structure, and underlying messages. By examining the country's principal forest policy documents from a discourse perspective, the study argues that the Bangladesh state's policy response to the 'problems' and 'development of forestry sector' has been rhetorically loaded but politically cautious, covert and calculated. Under the conditions of governmentality, the policy and plan prescriptions, as part of discursive regime, are presented as technical instruments for promoting efficiency and effectiveness 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 systematic purposes. These are: 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 rhetorical devices and discursive formations that function to empower some (e.g. public forestry officials) and silence others (e.g. restrictions put on 'land grabbers' and 'encroachers'); as political technologies to depoliticize and shape 'target group' conceptions and distribution of services; as escape hatches to hive off difficult responsibility and accountability questions; and as a lever to muster and wield power on the part of the state. Ultimately, the policy discourse and the associated formulation exercise may contribute both to the depoliticization and the bureaucratization of the development process. The paper concludes with a call for increased research on this relatively less-explored area of study.

ODID Author(s)