Accepted paper:

A living shaped by water: reading the political economy of flood narratives on Majuli island (Assam), India

Author:

Kh. Neil Young (Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi )

Paper short abstract:

Majuli Island is a waterscape. The paper explores the various flood narratives on Majuli and argues that such narratives are shaped by certain political economy. Such narratives of flood in turn construct people's imagination of their possible future that can arise from uncertain waterscapes.

Paper long abstract:

Majuli, the world largest river island on the Brahmaputra, represents an interesting waterscape inhabited by tribal and non-tribal communities. The island, known for its unique culture and its potential disappearance (over the last 50 years the island's size has been reduced from 1200sq km to about 400sq km due to erosion), has captured the imagination of climate change. The constantly shrinking of land masses have re-shaped the social geography and economic wellbeing of the riverine communities in myriad ways. It has produced a live in flux shaped by vulnerabilities, risk and uncertainties. Despite all these, flood continue to be a way of life for the riverine communities. Given the centrality of water in shaping the future of Majuli, it is critical to examine the flood narratives prevailing on the Island to understand how different actors and institutions imagine the possible future that can arise from uncertain waterscapes. Taking water as both materially and discursively, the paper tries to understand the way water shapes lives, the environment and the possible opportunity or peril that it can generate. Based on ethnographic work, the paper proposes to understand the different narratives of flood on Majuli namely 1) Taming of Nature Narratives 2) Save Majuli Narratives 3) Everyday Narratives of Flood. The paper argues that such flood narratives are deeply shaped by certain political economy. Further, it argues that the narratives of flood in turn construct or determine people's imagination of their possible future that can arise from uncertain waterscapes.

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Water futures: making a living in times of environmental uncertainty