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Accepted Paper:

Re-grounding community: Pollution and the authority of place on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia  
Voytek Lapinski (University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper gives an ethnographic account of the radical transformation of the meaning of landscape ritual and the authority of landscape in a rural community on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia in the face of the threats to livelihood and collective life posed by severe water pollution and climate change.

Paper long abstract:

Rural communities around Lake Titicaca, Bolivia are facing urgent environmental threat as livelihoods based on fishing and agriculture are undermined by the combined impact of water pollution and climate change. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a lakeside community of Aymara speaking heritage, this paper examines the way community members strive to navigate a world in radical disruption. Their livelihood strategies aim to materialise aspirations for a life that remains embedded in landscape and collective ritual, while making use of opportunities in the burgeoning urban economy of the nearby city of El Alto, seeking engagements with international tourism, or embarking on arduous voyages of migration to labour in the global metropolis. These strategies express the diversification and mobility key to rural life in the Andes and reflect an ongoing aspiration for community and place, even as the meaning of landscape ritual central to collective life and livelihood and the authority of landscape are undermined. This paper builds on ideas of the ontological priority of place in personhood and the constitution of collectivity (de la Cadena 2015) and Descola's analogism (2013) as vital to understanding relationships with the non-human in the Andean context. However, an emphasis on intentionality and the phenomenology of landscape allows it to foreground dynamics while still accounting for the weight and solidity of lived relations with the landscape and non-humans. It is thus able to give an account of the ways in which community members face both the possibilities and threats posed by attempts to manage epochal change.

Panel P080
(Re)connecting with Earth Beings: ritual innovation and affective entanglements in contemporary ecopolitics