Catching the "Social Life" of a Central Asian river: what kind of net is 'hydrosociality'?
Jeanne Féaux de la Croix
(University of Tübingen)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on a collaborative history of the Syr Darya, this paper experiments with ‘catching’ its social life with the net of hydrosociality. I deploy other tools such as ‘enviro-technical system’, ‘landscape’ and ‘resourcecultures’ to reflect on the different kinds of river life that each concept projects.
Paper long abstract:
This paper uses a collaborative history of the Naryn and Syr Darya rivers to experiment with 'catching' its social life with the net of hydrosociality. It deploys other tools such as 'enviro-technical system', 'landscape' and 'resourcecultures' to reflect on the different kinds of river life that each concept allows us to hear. I chose a Soviet-era dam, an ancient Silk Road city, a cotton-irrigating village and an international think tank as the main sites of reflection. The material is drawn from a research project involving anthropologists, political scientists and historians from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Germany, studying different aspects and actors of 'social life' along the main feeder of the dying Aral Sea. Seeking a new appreciation of the Syr Darya as an object of enquiry and interaction, the project looks beyond the quarrels over water-allocation dominating transnational river policy and representations. Since concepts are not only tools of analysis, but also tools of communication, this paper also discusses the benefits and drawbacks of these terms in translation e.g. when working with Russian-language scholars, or with other disciplines such as history and archaeology. I conclude by reflecting on the aesthetic connotations of water and 'hydrosociality' that affect its application, the analytic paths taken and not taken.
Muddy footsteps and hydrosocial futures: understanding relationality with, through and about water