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Accepted Paper:

Of affectivity and continuity: how practices of multispecies care contribute to constancy on the fluctuating islands of the Parnaíba Delta, Brazil  


Nora Horisberger (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation explores how practices of multispecies care contribute to create a sense of constancy and refuge in what appears as a highly fluctuating and uncertain environment.

Paper long abstract:

River deltas all over the world are gaining new attention due to their vulnerability to accelerated environmental changes (e.g. sea-level rise, more intense flooding). Especially relations to water fluctuations appear in these narratives as increasingly volatile and as a source of uncertainty. In the Parnaíba Delta in Northeast Brazil, the stronger penetration of salt water flows has recently forced inhabitants of some islands to abandon rice cultivation. Losing their main livelihood, many people decided to move away, others tried to find new ways of making a living. What resonates with the emerging climate change and disaster narratives and appears to outsiders as a disruption of normal life, is however locally not perceived as new nor extraordinary situation. Rather, delta dwellers consider volatile, that is abrupt and largely unpredictable, changes of water flows, sand dune movements and fish migrations, but also of work opportunities and of in and out moving people as constitutive of how the deltaic world works. Especially in regard to the increased uncertainty (unemployment, violence) in mainland cities, delta dwellers portray the deltaic islands as a place of peaceful life and refuge. In this presentation, I am interested in how practices of multispecies care contribute to this perception of refuge in that they reduce uncertainties and actively create stabilities. I focus in particular on women whose care-taking of plants and animals in home gardens, but also of young fishermen without homes and families are crucial in conferring a sense of constancy to an otherwise highly fluctuating world.

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