Accepted Paper:

Remembering floods, rethinking water: catastrophic hydrologies and the politics of memory in Northern Colombia   

Author:

Alejandro Camargo (Université de Montréal)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation reflects on how particular acts and narratives of memory are produced in the aftermath of catastrophic floods in Northern Colombia.

Paper long abstract:

A number of authors have pointed out that the aftermath of crises and catastrophic events are crucial moments for the production of collective memory. Although this scholarship has enriched our understanding of the politics of remembering, however, little has been said about the place of the environment in the making of discourses and practices of recollection. This presentation reflects on how particular acts and narratives of memory are produced in the aftermath of catastrophic floods. Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork during the reconstruction of a rural area in Northern Colombia, which was destroyed by floods in 2010, I will develop two arguments. First, in the context of environmental disasters, the production of memory can also be understood as a process of nature making. In Northern Colombia, the memories of the catastrophe involved the reconceptualization of water as a disastrous element and as a conduit of social suffering, rather than a benevolent source of life. Second, the production of memory is a political act in which the recollection of dramatic events and devastated natures serve as a platform to legitimize political claims vis-à-vis the state. These claims include, for instance, the intervention of the state to provide solutions to the crisis. I will analyze how people deployed performances, drawings, photographs, and oral narratives as tools for the construction of collective memories, ideas of disastrous water, and interactions with the state.

Panel LL-FWF03
On unstable water and its metaphors: experiencing, narrating, and contesting catastrophic hydrologies