Accepted paper:

Waterwork and progeneration in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal


Sandro Simon (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper traces how the dwellers of the Sine-Saloum Delta navigate through their volatile lifeworld by focusing on clam digging, a highly tactile practice that requires constant (re)attunement as one strives to anticipates and follow the tides and to move on and with/in moving water and soil.

Paper long abstract:

Life in the hypersaline Sine-Saloum Delta is characterized by continuous change as it unfolds along seasons and tides, or, the shifts between wet-dry and freshwater-saltwater. During the dry season, families mine salt, women dig for clams and men fish or transport people and goods between 'les îles' and 'la terre'. The rainy season again hinders the drying of clams and fish, so that people turn towards agriculture, the (re-)construction of pirogues or jobs 'sur terre'. Seasonality hence determines what one does throughout the year. Tides, in turn, shape waterwork, or, when and how to dig and boat. This paper traces the delta's volatility and how its inhabitants' navigate through it by means of their flexibility, creativity and imagination by focusing on clam digging. For millennia, clams have been eaten and traded while their shells accreted in middens and have been used for pottery, dams, streets and houses. Life, one could say, is built on and around them. Today, women use their fingers and feet to dig for them, before processing and eventually selling them. This highly tactile practice requires constant (re)attunement as the women move on and with/in moving water and soil that offer less and less harvest due to siltation and overexploitation. Moreover, tides need to be anticipated and followed while they resonate and conflict with the other (a)rhythmic events of everyday life, such as day and night, prayer times, feasts or market prizes, further challenging the women's navigation between knowledge and performance or plan and situated action.

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Water futures: making a living in times of environmental uncertainty