LASA/EANLAS: Rethinking Trans-Pacific Ties: Asia and Latin America

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Water Ontologies and Hydro-Extractivisms: Decolonizing Rivers in Central America and the Himalayan Region

Thu, February 17, 8:00 to 9:30am, Virtual Building, VR111

Session Submission Type: Panel


This comparative and trans-regional panel considers the ontological politics of hydropower development and other riverine conflicts in Central America and South Asia, focusing on the analytical possibilities of the concept of hydro-extractivism. This conceptualization draws together and builds from previous work on extractivisms and neo-extractivisms in Latin America (Acosta 2013; Burchardt & Dietz 2014) as well as scholarship on the ontological politics of hydropower and resistance in Asia (Drew 2017, Whitington 2019). Hydropower, as a process/verb, is one kind of ontological ‘problem space’ (Blaser 2014) wherein different water worlds and resource ontologies are enacted and entangled (cf. Boelens 2015, Rasmussen 2016, Yates et al 2017).

In both Central America and South Asia, international and national modes of hydro-extractivism have long eclipsed situated and indigenous water ontologies. These specific histories, colonial and post-colonial, interact with hegemonic modern water ontologies as they articulate throughout the world (Linton 2019, Flaminio 2021). Inspired by indigenous activism (Tzul Tzul 2016, Willow 2016) and scholarship that centers the power of such activism in the face of extraction (Gergan 2020, Gudynas 2013, Vindal Ødegaard & Rivera Andía 2019) we seek to promote new practices of “bottom-up co-theorizing about human/water beyond the human” (Viaene 2021) that make our scholarship useful for people embroiled in situated hydropower conflicts in Latin America and Asia. How might critical inter-regional dialogue help us identify new ways to destabilize hydro-extractivist systems and decolonize modern water ontologies in the places we conduct research? How might such dialogue help identify emergent possibilities for situated ontopolitics?

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