Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
How are conflicting domains of customary and codified law shaping local understandings of river water access and control in rural Jamaica? This paper examines the muddy terrain of social norms and legal standards around the private use of rivers and riverbanks for industrial and personal economic purposes. How have histories of colonization and plantation slavery shaped physical and social geographies surrounding the river and perceptions of just resource access in contemporary agricultural districts? These perceptions are, in part, contextualized within global changes linked to late-capitalism as industrial sugar cane and rum production are increasingly owned by transnational conglomerates rather than a contemporary rendition of the colonial era stakeholders who, in turn, became the planter class. How has foreign industrial production practice interacted with Jamaican customary law on water and riverbank use to muddy the relationship between large scale producers/employers and local residents/employees in river neighboring communities? The project turns an ethnographic focus on changing relationships between a rum factory and sugar cane plantation and residents of the surrounding agricultural community, which both depend on, and are critical of,their river-associated neighbors, in order to understand inequalities and relationships produced by the muddy landscape of river access claims and the rich, fertile, mud of Jamaican riverbanks.