EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W087)

Water scenarios: forecasting and liquid knowledge

Location JHT4
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Frida Hastrup (University of Copenhagen) email
Christian Vium (University of Copenhagen) email
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Long Abstract

Human life depends on water. However, to exist we need the right amount of water in the right places. At present, people all over the world are faced with extraordinary instances of excess or shortage of water, which force us to investigate the water scenarios that emerge in response to this situation. In times of crisis spurred by water out of place, whether in terms of surplus or scarcity, novel imageries of the wet and the dry evolve and call for anthropological attention. Furthermore, the very situations that people respond to are often in themselves liquid in nature and thus not entirely knowable; even detailed and supposedly detached scientific models of projected water flows, sea level rise, and increased desertification and so on have an inbuilt element of imagination. In that sense, the forecasting of different water scenarios is a comprehensive imaginative enterprise that resides with climatic experts as well as with amateurs, all of whom make the most of their liquid knowledge in order to keep emergencies at bay. Against the backdrop of the current climate crisis and other prevalent environmental concerns this workshop invites analyses of the meanings of water, whether as threat, commodity, scientific fact, site of political contestation, ritual component, aesthetic device or other.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Aftout Essahili - ethnographic investigations into large-scale urban water provision in Nouakchott, Mauritania

Author: Christian Vium (University of Copenhagen)  email
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Long Abstract

Nouakchott, the capital city of Mauritania was founded in 1956. What was then a settlement of a few thousands have now grown into a city of nearly one million inhabitants, of which the majority are sedentarised nomads who have left the rural areas and their traditional livelihood in response to a complex of entanglements; severe droughts, profound political transformations and disruption of the socio-economic fabric of the nomadic livelihood.

The rapid and unmediated growth of Nouakchott has put tremendous pressure on infrastructure, in particular water services. As a response to the widespread lack of water, particularly during the dry season, the government, in collaboration with a host of international donors, has initiated the country's largest development project to date: the Aftout Essahili project, which will bring water from the River Senegal some 200 kilometers to the South directly to Nouakchott via pipelines.

This paper investigates this ongoing project.

Returning Sasyk to the sea: the politics of water and the unmaking of Soviet modernity in Southern Ukraine

Author: Tanya Richardson (Wilfrid Laurier University)  email
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Long Abstract

In the late 1970s, a Soviet agro-industrial project tried to turn the salt-water Sasyk estuary in southern Ukraine into a freshwater lake to irrigate fields by constructing a dam and a canal transporting fresh water from the Danube River. The result was a disaster - infertile land, contaminated ground water, health problems, and a dramatic decline in Sasyk's biodiversity - that remained officially unacknowledged for over two decades. Since the mid-1990s activists from a local NGO have campaigned for an official decision to remove Sasyk's dam, which they achieved in the spring of 2009 after years of lobbying, commissioning scientific expertise, and demonstrations. This paper considers two issues: first, the political struggles between the NGO and canal system authorities to produce, refute, and conceal knowledge about Sasyk's complex water environments; and second, how activists, residents and scientists are imagining the agencies of water and humans in forecasting Sasyk's future.

Managing floods, managing people: a political ecology of watercourse regulation on the Kemi River

Author: Franz Krause (University of Cologne)  email
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Long Abstract

The stark seasonal variations of the discharge of the Kemi, largest river in the Finnish province of Lapland, have long formed an integral part of the rhythmic dynamics of social and ecological life along its banks. With the spread of permanent infrastructure and activities, however, the annual spring-flood is increasingly conceived as a hazard.

Fuelled, among others, by recent flooding events, climate-change scenarios, a growing opposition to hydropower developments and an EU directive, plans are being debated to dam the river in hitherto protected areas in order to decrease flood-risk in the provincial capital.

This paper presents the divergent perceptions of floods, security and the nature of a river, on which the debate is based, and indicates how regulating the rhythms of the river also implicates managing places, biological processes and river dwellers.

The Foyle River catchment: people, place and nature - estrangement and connection

Author: Liam Campbell (Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh)  email
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Long Abstract

Much of the research on the phenomenology of water and landscape inspired by Ingold and Heidegger tends to focus on the large diversity of cultural landscapes, currently losing their ties with the land and water use systems that formed them. Reports indicate that this decreasing diversity is often characterised and accompanied by a strong sense of loss and grief. If we are right about this sense of loss and grief, then, there can be no confidence or consistency in moving forward, until this grief is recognised and what is lost at named. This reflexive transpersonal ecology is an attempt to deep map a river catchment through themes of connection and estrangement that emerged in different places along the river. Even in its most basic topography, the most skeletal and reductive representation of its ecology, the river catchment is a profoundly suggestive way of looking at the world and caring for it.

Polish sea imagination and practices

Author: Dorota Rancew-Sikora (University of Gdansk)  email
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Long Abstract

I would like to explore the meaning of Baltic Sea in collective consciousness of Poland. The situation is ambivalent because of the long and recurring history of having an access to the sea and loss of it. The fact that loss of seacoast came together with loss of power and sovereignty of the national state, could implicate that sea would become an important national value, but it rather seems that Polish people still have problems with full internalization of the symbolic and practical aspects of marital status of their state.

Historical-symbolic analysis will be elaborated by looking at a current conflict about fishery and changing meanings of consumption and recreation connected with seashore in Poland.

Protecting the waterfront: environmental projects in coastal South India

Author: Frida Hastrup (University of Copenhagen)  email
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Long Abstract

Fieldwork along the coast of Tamil Nadu has shown that people there have a sense that the neighbouring sea has come to pose a threat in unforeseen ways. Changes in cyclone and monsoon patterns and erosion have left villagers with the experience that their local waters are increasingly out of control.

In response, and as a reaction to the Asian tsunami that affected the region, the government and NGOs have contrived various coastal protection schemes that aim at controlling the encroachment of the sea. This paper addresses these protective measures as instances of 'environmental projects' as conceptualized by Tsing and Greenough (2003), implying that they be seen as incomplete and awkward and as contingent encounters between bureaucrats, scientists, villagers, trees, water among others. By looking at these environmental projects through their practical enactments, complex understandings of protection emerge, revealing different imageries of the controllability of water, sea, and nature.

Forecasting in changing waters: fishermen, ethnoclimatology and climate change

Author: Eliseu Carbonell (Catalan Institute for Cultural Heritage Research)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper deals with climate and culture in relation to the sea. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork between Catalan fishermen in a town near Barcelona (Spain), which focus in fishermen knowledge on climate (forecasting from water surface, cloud forms, wind qualities, fish and bird behaviour, etc.). In this paper I explore two main questions: First, a theoretical reflection on folk knowledge on climate or ethnoclimatology starting form Palsson's view about the human-environmental relations; and, secondly, the voice of fishermen, when the ideas about climate change meet the social and economical reality of small-scale fishery today. My point is that fishermen's knowledge on climate is an expression of the intimate relationship between human and nature, and that this relation is being "colonized" (as proposed by Crate & Nuttall 2008) by modernity, which has one of its more prototypical expressions in the climate change.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.