Accepted paper:

Embodied experiences and the global gaze Conflicting perceptions of water in the Jequitinhonha Valley- Brazil


Andrea Zhouri (Federal University of Minas Gerais)
Raquel Oliveira (UFMG)

Paper short abstract:

Dams are globally considered to be a sustainable source of energy and have a key place within climate change debate. The paper analyses the consequences of dam building for downstream dwellers in Brazil, with a especial focus on a socio-technical controversy between anthropologists and sanitation engineers raised by the Irapé dam.

Paper long abstract:

Research experience has driven our attention towards different kinds of environmentalism as well as the hierarchical positions and power relations involving global views and local realities. Sustainable development, as a global mantra, has underlined international policies heavily based on ecological modernization strategies which in turn are supported by a belief that technology, market initiatives and consensus building processes, combined, can solve the globally assumed "environmental crisis". The latter is thus constructed as a reality now widely debated under the framework of climate change. Hence, science and technology must be objectively put into work in order to prevail global disasters. Such a perspective, we argue, is drawn on global experiences disengaged, or thought to be disengaged, from the processes of ones own material life. The paper analyses some of the consequences to people on the ground of such powerful and most legitimised perceptions of the environment. It turns to the construction of dams in Brazil, globally considered to be a sustainable source of energy, and will focus on some of its consequences for downstream dwellers, people who are not considered as "dam affected people" by decision-makers. Although much has been written on the impacts of dams upon people who are displaced by the reservoirs, little has been said about the effects of dams upon downstream dwellers. The analysis will, thus, focus on dwellers of the Jequitinhonha river, in the state of Minas Gerais, and a socio-technical controversy between anthropologists and sanitation engineers around the impacts of the Irapé dam.

panel PE43
Averting a global environmental collapse: the role of anthropology and local knowledge (WCAA panel)