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Accepted Paper:

Watching from deep water: crocodiles, social order, and environmental transformation on Siberut Island (Indonesia)  
Darmanto Darmanto (Czech Academy of Science)

Paper short abstract:

Frequent accidental drownings and the reappearance of the salt water crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) have provoked the indigenous Mentawaians living on Siberut Island (West Sumatra, Indonesia) to rethink about human and more-than human relations in the age of development and progress.

Paper long abstract:

Frequent accidental drownings have provoked the indigenous Mentawaians on Siberut Island (West Sumatra, Indonesia) to connect the recent reappearance of the ever-elusive salt-water crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) with ongoing ecological and social crises. The animal is a special creature, traditionally seen as both the embodiment and the companion of the autochtonous spirit of the water (sikaoinan) as well as the custodian of the underworld, a divine arbiter guarding moral order and manifesting social unity. The incidents have led to a resurgence in the old belief that sikaoinan is punishing society due to a lack of sharing and the emergence of social inequality inseparable to the development projects. The Mentawaians understand that the rampant development activities have altered their cosmological world, caused the depletion of natural resources, and generated a new social insecurity. Yet, they are actively engaged and have voluntarily aspired to participate in these agendas. I argue that the contemporary anxiety over crocodiles and the drowning accidents signals an ongoing (re)consideration of what it means to be a Mentawaian in the context of rapid social disruption and environmental transformation. The crocodiles visitation trouble the narrative of the Mentawaians aspiration to be modern and remind them about the the fragile relationship between the human and the more-than-human realms in the age of progress.

Panel Envi10
Coexisting with underwater worlds
  Session 1 Saturday 10 June, 2023, -