Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
The erosion of lands in riverine areas of the Brahmaputra Valley in Northeast India poses acute problems. On the large river island of Majuli this annually results in large sections of residential and agricultural lands being washed away with the monsoon. Interventions by state agencies to stabilise land/river boundaries have been perceived by residents as haphazardly planned and implemented. Erosion continues and it is not taken for granted by residents that efficacious interventions on the river will adequately materialise.
Contrary to what has often been transcreated within popular media accounts, the uncertainty generated around how and when various lands might be stabilised has not fostered a pervasive downbeat fatalism. Many residents by contrast pursue the materialisation of generative and aspirational life trajectories, including the building of desirable concrete households on vulnerable land. These desires for permanence and prosperity can equally be understood through ethical reflections by residents concerning planned large communication and transport infrastructure on Majuli and the smoother flows they might facilitate.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork this presentation explores how a focus on prospective infrastructure projects in an ‘environment on the move’ draws out the transformative connections and disconnections they contain. Whilst destructive trajectories relating to erosion hang as suspended potentialities on nearby temporal horizons, can this be made sense of as a contested ‘meantime’? Perhaps rather the uncertainty concerning the ‘chasing river’ allow for divergent futures to emerge and submerge at specific moments as residents negotiate and pursue the materialisation of aspirations for permanence, prosperity and comfort.