Building livelihoods amidst multiple temporalities of rapid change
Julia Wedel (Oxford Brookes University)
Paper short abstract:
Landscapes of uncertainty, unpredictability, rapid change…terms used to describe the temporal unknown. But how exactly do these temporalities manifest? The paper pinpoints distinct features of rapid change and asks how these enable or hinder populations’ adjustment to such fleeting landscapes.
Paper long abstract:
The paper examines the effects of multiple temporalities of rapid change on a community's ability to construct livelihoods in an urban landscape of chronic and unpredictable water scarcity. It draws on a broader ethnographic study on resilience to water scarcity in environments of rapid change conducted with 23 households and 8 institutional stakeholders in an informal settlement in Lima, Peru. Through the lens of dwelling, the paper examines the effects of uncertainty, unpredictability and reduced decision-making time on residents' perceptions and knowledge of the water scarce landscape, and how the perpetual yet unpredictable alterations of the environment affect the ability to construct livelihoods. Scarcity of time, mental capacity and economic means mark households' responses to water scarcity and result in wide-spread short-termism, resulting in temporary adjustments which attract significant longer term challenges. Insecure futures arising from lack of land tenure suspend residents' livelihoods within a wider environment of rapid change. Institutional failures to provide enabling conditions highlight the limits of household agency in adjusting to chronic yet volatile changes in the water scarce landscape. The paper examines how these temporal phenomena manifest in the transformation of the water scarce landscape and households' perceptions of, and adjustments to, this landscape through ways of dwelling. It discusses how these temporalities delineate the boundaries of the community's ability to construct livelihoods within contexts of rapid change, and concludes by analysing the significance of these boundary conditions for theories of rapid change and scarce resources.
Dwelling in an evanescent landscape: people's strategies to deal with chronical uncertainty