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Accepted Paper:

Rain, Rivers and Credit: Amazonian Cycles of Exchange  


Vinicius de Aguiar Furuie (Princeton University)

Paper short abstract:

The seasonal ebb and flow of Amazonian rivers have shaped exchange in the region for centuries. How are commercial practices adapting to the introduction of road transportation and river dams? How is temporality being recreated along new trade routes, no longer dependent on rainfall?

Paper long abstract:

Since the late 19th century, for six months of the year, the rubber estates of the Iriri river, in the Eastern Brazilian Amazon, were cut off from the outside world. The Cachoeira Grande rapids, located at the river's mouth, are only safe to navigate when the rainy season raises the water level above its many rocks. For 80 years, commodity circulation and the associated cycle of credit abided by the temporality of rains. Rubber harvested during the dry season was stockpiled until it could be hauled downriver; political power concentrated in the hands of those that could loan until the end of the cycle. In the 1980s, roads were first opened in this part of the Amazon, connecting the Iriri to nearby cities year-round. In the 2010s, the gigantic Belo Monte Dam was built downstream in the Xingu river. This paper describes how infra-structural changes in the middle-Xingu over the past 40 years have interacted with social arrangements in riverside communities, focusing on exchange relations through which commodities and credit flow. Based on oral history and 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork with "regatão" river traders and riverside dwellers, the paper argues for the continued importance of rain cycles seen as co-constitutive of exchange. Local practices attribute meanings to seasonal fluctuations of the river and adapt to the introduction of new elements such as trucks, ice, amateur radios and paper money. But the acceleration of commercial cycles also brings new challenges to trade relations.

Panel P162
Wet horizons: hydrosocial re-articulations in the Anthropocene [EnviroAnt]