Water sourcing, allocation, use, and disposal are deeply contextual practices, and as such require multivocal engagement. This panel addresses the role that anthropological research plays in shaping the future flows of water and the way these interventions better inform the practice of anthropology.
To live in the 21st century is to be faced with questions of change, sustainability, and survival. At the macro-level, climate change, rapid urban development, globalization, and environmental devastation are threatening the vitality of previously stable systems and magnifying uncertainty in the tenuous holds of others. These problems manifest themselves in myriad ways at the micro-level, wherein cultural variance affects the ways societies engage with these problems, and the way they are engaged by the problems. This panel presents an opportunity for anthropologists to convene over one of the most pressing problems of this future: global water disparity. Water is the matrix for life; a future without water is a future that limits the potential for lives, lifestyles, and vitalities. Water—control over its flows, discourse surrounding its legitimate uses, measures of adequacy in quality and quantity—is a reflection of the societies that it courses through. In many ways, those who are on the margins of water systems are also those whose perspectives and testimonies are marginalized by sociopolitical systems. Anthropologists, as those committed to holistic, multivocal understandings of water disparities, provide the framework for understanding the commonalities of this global problem in a way that acknowledges and respects the elements that make water disparities inextricable from their local context. By discussing water disparities in this light, anthropology plays a significant role in shaping our global and local futures.
This panel is sponsored by the IUAES 'Commission of Anthropology and the Environment'