Accepted Paper:

Displacing the delta: elemental relations between the Danube and the Black Sea  


Tanya Richardson (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation seeks to convey Vilkovchani's sense of place in the Danube's reedbeds in order to experiment with displacing the scalar politics of the term "delta."

Paper long abstract:

This presentation reflects on the relative absence of the term "delta" in conversations with gardeners and fishermen from Vilkovo, a town I usually describe unreflectively as being located "in Ukraine's Danube Delta." The word "delta" has been used as a technical term to describe and compare the fan-like formations at river mouths for more than two millennia, including on the Danube/Ister. Yet, STS-inspired anthropologists remind us that a "delta" is not a single thing through time or across space even though the circulation of Dutch hydrological expertise in more recent history makes it seem as if this were so. Over the past two centuries different versions of the Danube Delta as a transportation corridor, reclaimed land, or a protected Ramsar wetland have overlapped and conflicted, often in the context of geopolitics. These "deltas" and their agents have often displaced, appropriated, or rendered problematic the knowledge, relations and dwelling practices of long-term river inhabitants. This paper describes Vilkovchani's relations with the elements of earth, air, water, and fire in order to render their sense of place in the plavni (reedbeds) where the Danube meets the Black Sea. In doing so, it seeks to displace the managerial scalar politics of encompassment that the statement "Vilkovo is in the Danube Delta" enacts. I reflect on what possibilities, if any, this might offer fishermen and gardeners in preventing the curtailment of their livelihoods.

Panel LL-FWF04
River deltas as living landscapes: movement, management, and the critique of a commonplace