CFP: Amphibious Anthropologies

Luisa Cortesi's picture

Amphibious anthropologies: living in wet environments
(Book Project)

Wetlands, floodplains, tidal zones or river deltas have long fascinated outsiders’ imaginations. Appearing like an uncanny, inhospitable and hazardous mix of solid and fluid substances, they have been seen as wastelands, sources of disease, and obstacles to development and progress. Simultaneously, they have been regarded as providers of ecosystem services, mythical loci, portals to archaeological times, gauges of climate change, and tourism destinations. For their inhabitants, however, these milieus may be home, livelihood, refuge, opportunity, as well as a constitutive part of their own cultural and environmental histories.
Characterised by high degrees of both vitality and vulnerability, these in-between environments are sites for the production and reproduction of amphibious lives, including particular forms of social relations, infrastructural arrangements, and processes of place-making and resource governance. From an epistemological perspective, such spatiotemporal amalgamations of land and water defy the very distinction between these two elements, and their connected categorisations of human habitats. As a consequence, studies of human society in these areas have the potential to unmoor preconceptions based on the dry-wet binary, where dry land is the domain of human habitation, and wetlands or other watery places are inhabitable and hostile environments. 
Ethnographies of irrigation systems, drainage schemes, damming projects, ecological restoration efforts, drinking water infrastructure, flood risk management, muddy environments, and riverine societies speak of human negotiations of water and land. We contend that such studies can also elucidate the socially and materially situated practices of learning, shaping, maintaining and transforming culture. This collection aims at providing an interdisciplinary and ethnographic perspective on these negotiations and practices by exploring the following questions:
-          How are categories of wet and dry employed, enforced and resisted? Are they related to specific modes of existence, and in which ways?
-          How are water and land mixed and separated by human activities, and how are those activities in turn shaped by land-water dynamics?
-          How do people grapple with changing hydrological patterns and their consequences? 
-          How do social and political relationships resonate with floods and droughts, irrigation projects, drainage schemes and other projects of water and land governance?
-          What are the potential contributions of an anthropological analysis of amphibious environments and societies to contemporary debates on disaster, development, infrastructure, knowledge, sustainability, resilience, and adaptation?
By deploying the term ‘anthropologies’ we do not intend to set disciplinary boundaries, but to emphasize that human experiences, predicaments and narratives take centre stage in our explorations of the amphibious.
We invite interested authors to submit paper proposals of around 500 words to us by October 20th, 2015. Please address in your proposal how your paper engages with the main theme of the project and the above questions. Consider that we will expect the submission of the full chapter manuscripts (TBD, around 5-7000 words) by March 31st, 2016. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any question.  

Alejandro Camargo, Syracuse University,
Luisa Cortesi, Yale University,
Franz Krause, Tallinn University,