Accepted Paper:

Water, water everywhere: perceptions of chaotic water regimes in northeastern Siberia, Russia  

Author:

Susan Crate (George Mason University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores applied anthropological research examining perceptions, understandings and responses to increasing water on the land, one of the major effects of global climate change for native Viliui Sakha agropastoralist communities of northeastern Siberia, Russia.

Paper long abstract:

This paper draws on fieldwork investigating perceptions, understandings and responses to the local effects of global climate change for native Viliui Sakha agropastoralist communities of northeastern Siberia, Russia. For Viliui Sakha, global climate change translates locally into a highly altered climate system and water regime. 2008 fieldwork shows Inhabitants observing warmer winters, increased snowfall, excessive precipitation, changed seasonality, and the transformation of their ancestral landscape due to increased water on the land and degrading permafrost. One urgent change is how the increased water on the land is turning hayfields into lakes, inundating households and ruining transportation networks. The increasing water on the land interferes with subsistence and threatens to undermine settlement. Beyond these physical changes, what does the increased water on the land mean to Viliui Sakha? Inhabitants expressed not only concern about their future but also common fear that they would 'go under water.' Water has visceral meaning to Sakha, based on their historically-based belief system, their adaptation the their environment, and knowledge system. In response, 2009 field research looked in more depth at communities' perceptions of water, and worked to bring those perceptions and beliefs into our 2010 knowledge exchange exercise. This paper will present our initial findings and make suggestions on how these findings can be understood more broadly for other peoples unprecedentedly affected by water crises in the face of global climate change.

Panel P11
Living water: the powers and politics of a vital substance