Water futures: making a living in times of environmental uncertainty

Noah Walker-Crawford (University of Manchester)
Tom Boyd (University of Manchester)
Prof Veronica Strang
Examination Schools Room 14
Start time:
19 September, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Water shapes life. It mediates our understanding of an increasingly unstable environment in the context of climate change. This panel explores how people's engagements with water shape imaginations of water futures and their respective speculative life possibilities.

Long abstract:

Water shapes life - not only as a fundamental biological basis for life or as a material necessary for continued survival, but in the constitution of myriad lifeworlds. In anthropology, we can approach water as a 'total social fact' (Orlove & Caton 2010). Maintaining desired flows of water is often a complex affair. This can involve physical water infrastructures, conflict and negotiation concerning appropriate use and legitimate users, or even efforts to appease non-human beings. Following recent and renewed interest within studies of infrastructure, materiality, and STS, water has become a significant site of ethnographic inquiry in times of environmental crisis. In an age of global climate change, water is often a source of increasing environmental instability. Shifting flows and presence of water dramatically alter the possibilities of life through scarcity, extreme weather, glacial retreat, devastating floods and sea level rise. Not only technical experts make forecasts about future water developments. In their daily lives, many people speculate how waterscapes and flows may transform, finish or even wash away places. Recognising that water mediates understandings of environmental change, we can explore how imaginings about future availability and flows of water shape people's speculations about the generative and destructive potentialities that arise from uncertain waterscapes. This panel seeks to explore how people's engagements with water shape their future imaginings. Acknowledging the possibilities water possesses for both opportunity and peril, we invite papers exploring water futures in relation with, for example, considerations of well-being, risk, connectivity, and remoteness. Discussant: Prof Veronica Strang (Durham University)