Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
"Genuine mourning should open us into an awareness of our dependence on and relationships with those countless others being driven over the edge of extinction… This work is not opposed to practical action, rather it is the foundation of any sustainable and informed response.”
Thom Van Dooren
This essay addresses some of the mournful and political work I’ve been doing in the wake of Guatemala’s genocide but recast through meditations on the riparian—the water/land/beings interrelations that make a river. Some of the great and terrible violences of the war occurred in, through, and about rivers. Yet returning to these decades of work under the growing weight of the Capitalocene I realize how easy it has been to elide the riverine worlds themselves and what they have meant and mean to their multiple inhabitants, including but not limited to the Mayan survivors. From the 5000 people killed in the Rio Negro area in 1982 to make way for the Chixoy dam, to the way rivers were used to kill and dispose of bodies, to new struggles around “green energy” hydroelectric extractivisms, the riparian remains a site and stake of struggle but also more than a standing reserve. This paper explores riparian worldings through engaging practical action—including renewed forms of political organizing and spiritual practices—as sustainable and informed responses to a world of dependence on and relationships with.