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Accepted Paper:

“The Incas were the perfect peasants!”: Maintaining canals, obligations and customary law in 21st Century Huarochirí, Peru.  
Sarah Bennison (St Andrews University)

Paper short abstract:

How might irrigative infrastructure facilitate communication between different temporalities as well as human and non-human actors? To what extent do modernist precepts relating to infrastructure pose an obstacle to agricultural production in ancestral or indigenous communities?

Paper long abstract:

While water is a national common resource in Peruvian law, for irrigators in the Lima province of Huarochirí, water belongs exclusively to the sacred [pre-Hispanic] ancestors who govern the irrigation canals. This paper explores the ways in which these diverging ideologies inform approaches to maintenance work on the irrigative infrastructure in Andean communities. Through this approach, I seek to foreground the kinds of invisible legal climates necessary for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure (Appel 2018).

For Harvey and Knox (2015), infrastructural systems only ‘work’ when they produce smooth flows, obscuring the complex relational mechanisms on which those flows rely. For canals in Huarochirí to ‘work’ and transport water from intakes to fields, communities must collectively repay their debts to the sacred ancestors through fulfilling their ritual responsibilities. Any work on the canals begins by ritually pacifying the ancestors. Modernist state-funded development projects must also comply with customary laws associated with the Inca era; dismissive urban engineers who fail to comply with customary law see their projects fail. Collaborators explained the ways such ideological dissonance materialised in the canals. These instances of ontological excess acknowledge canals as relational domains, where economic futures are dependent on adherence to precepts that pre-date the nation. The Inca era is idealised as a time when the canals ‘worked’.

Panel Irre09b
Agricultural infrastructures in a failed ecology II
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -