Accepted Paper:

"The water is boss": seasonal rhythms and 'zones of tactility' in the Peace-Athabasca Delta  

Author:

Whitney Larratt-Smith (University of California, Davis)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, this paper summarizes a chapter of my forthcoming dissertation on the material-discursive relations of waters downstream from the oil sands industry in the Peace-Athabasca Delta.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing from two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, this paper summarizes a chapter of my forthcoming dissertation on the material-discursive relations of waters downstream from the oil sands industry in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. I will present a photographic and spoken montage of experiences from intensive participant-observation in indigenous land/water-based practices to illuminate the multiplicity of fluvial relations imbricated in the delta's ecologies of life and death. Through ethnographic storytelling and selected photographs, I experiment in a 'visceral' anthropology to convey the mobile, fleshy relations of hunting, fishing, and trapping within the seasonal rhythms and transformations of the delta- through extreme subzero temperatures, sun, snow, hail and rain, slush and wind, quicksands and shifting riverbanks. Layered into the text will appear (as they appeared to me) articulations from my Cree, Dene, and Metis interlocutors about changes they were observing in the waters, landscape, animals and plants- deformed moose calves, varying colors and tastes of duck flesh, and the proliferation of willow trees are a few examples of local concerns emerging from their territorial practices. By thinking through these forms of witnessing within what I call 'zones of tactility' between the residents of Fort Chipewyan and energy infrastructure projects impacting the delta, this paper draws from and contributes to scholarship concerned with how humans engage in their surroundings (Ingold 2000, Kohn 2007, Cruickshank 2005) and the particular sensibilities about waters that emerge from and guide those engagements (Neimanis, McLeod and Chen 2013).

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