Accepted paper:

Dwelling strategies within an urbanizing Brazilian floodplain: new coping strategies for novel uncertainties


Nora Horisberger (University of Cologne)
Julien Blanc (Musée de l'Homme)

Paper short abstract:

We’ll discuss how "traditional" dwelling strategies and related knowledge relate to new status and roles locally assigned to "nature" within a Brazilian floodplain landscape. Our focus is on a settlement located in Northeast Brazil undergoing strong urbanization dynamics since the 1980s.

Paper long abstract:

Our presentation explores the ways floodplain dwellers re-negotiate both the role and the status of the landscape they inhabit, in a context of accelerating urbanization. For decades or more, life in Aranha, a settlement located in Northeast Brazil, has been relying on multiple livelihoods (fishing, agriculture, livestock farming, extractivism) that are complementary in space and time. Such a diversity of ways of dwelling enables the people of Aranha to adjust to strong fluctuations of the environment. Indeed, Aranha's environment undergoes complex flooding cycles, due to the combined influence of rain and tides, giving the landscape an ambiguous character between terrestrial and aquatic. As we will argue, the ways people of Aranha engage with "nature" nowadays must, however, be analysed in a larger frame, due mainly to the accelerated urbanization process taking place in the region. We will show how the question of "nature" is renewed, renegotiated and re-inserted in the context of these changes. In particular, the landscape is revalued throughout new dimensions such as its aesthetic quality, its contribution to wellbeing, its economic value or its potential regarding conservation. "Dwelling", although remaining central in Aranha, thus became one of the multiple ways of relating to this landscape. But how do these various possibilities of engaging with "nature" interrelate locally? How do dwelling strategies and related knowledge evolve within this frame? How is coping with uncertainty reframed in this context? These are the main questions we will address here.

panel Env01
Dwelling in an evanescent landscape: people's strategies to deal with chronical uncertainty