LASA Latin American Studies Association Conference:
Latin American Studies in a Globalized World, May 23rd-26th 2018, Barcelona, Spain
Thursday May 24, 2018 9:00-10:30am
Andean Community Response to Socio-Environmental Disequilibrium: Lessons for us all in the Era of Global Climate Change.
Session organizer: Patricia J. Hammer (Center for Social Well Being) email@example.com
Chair: Karsten Paerregaard (University of Gothenburg) Karsten.firstname.lastname@example.org
Discussant: Astrid Bredholt Stensrud (University of Oslo) email@example.com
Program Track/Topic: Biodiversity, Natural Resources and Environment
The significance of the Andes region for analysis of the devastation of Climate Change due to global human enterprises of war, industry and extractive mining is unquestionable. This session provides cases of collective efforts to communicate, interact with, appease and reciprocate with the natural elements to ensure plentiful harvests, needed water distribution and rain, all essential to the longevity of Andean culture and society. The voices, experiences and specific intentions of Andean inhabitants present a vital contribution to discussions of socio-environmental degradation that propose efficacious means to mitigate and adapt to the unprecedented changing conditions of the world in which we live.
- Marjorie M. Snipes (University of West Georgia) firstname.lastname@example.org
Deep Ties that Bind: the Social Agency of Water in the Central and Southern Andes
Water plays a significant role in all cultures, but in agricultural and pastoral societies, water also marks social ties and belongingness. Those who share water exhibit social ties that require coordination and regulation. In societies that utilize common land, herding rights, or irrigation canals water has social agency. Water moves, weaving individual households into social collectivities and forging ties. It is a Maussian gift – one that must be reciprocated by its nature and that results in an enduring relationship. In both the ethnohistorical and ethnographic literature of the Andes, water is commonly depicted with agency. In the early writings of Huarochirí, Anchi Cara’s children “slosh” water from Purui (Salomon 1991:134) in order to share it with others and Guamán Poma de Ayala (1987) provides graphic renditions where water serves as threads of continuity between fixed points. Similarly today, in rural communities of the Central and Southern Andes there are numerous ethnographic examples of water as a social tie demarcated through rituals such as Primer [sic] de Agosto, where the opening of the agricultural cycle occurs progressively from one to another household along shared irrigation canals (Snipes 1996). In this paper, I will examine the traditional ways that water has been depicted and “handled” in the Andes. As we enter a period in which “water wars” are becoming ever more prominent, it is important to remember the ways that resources such as this have long been regulated and respected by subsistence cultures.
- Doris Walter (Independent) email@example.com
Traditional Meteorological Perceptions and Ritual Practices in the Callejón de Huaylas (Ancash, Peru)
This paper explores how meteorological phenomena are traditionally perceived in the Callejón de Huaylas (Ancash, Peru), as well as various ritual practices which are linked to them. Although this subject has been studied in other Andean regions, little has been written on the theme in this particular Peruvian area. The paper first examines how supernatural entities, be they devils, wild animals, saints, God, mountain deities, or ancestor spirits, incarnate or act upon these phenomena. Second, it shows how human beings can influence the weather. That is, on the one hand, improper human behaviour related to a lack of respect for nature, or disharmonious social relationships, can cause undesirable phenomena such as violent winds, hailstorms, unusual rains or droughts as well as natural disasters. But humans may also interact beneficially with meteorological phenomena through ritual practices, for example by calling or chasing the rain or the wind. There are numerous variations in these rituals from one community to another. Such beliefs and practices – many of which are now falling into disuse – give us deeper insight as to how local people interpret climate change and glacier retreat in this area of the Andes.
- Karsten Paerregaard (University of Gothenburg) firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting Water Right: Offerings, Rain and Politics in the Peruvian Andes. Water is important not only as a natural resource but also as an object of political empowerment, social meaning, and cultural imagination. To unpack water’s social nature the paper examines the symbolic power Andean people attribute to it and discusses the multiple meanings of the offerings they conduct to the forces they believe control the rain. Drawing on ethnographic field research it examines two cases that in opposite ways demonstrate how environmental and social change shapes Andean irrigation management and ritual practice and transforms the intricate relation between water and power in the Andes. It argues that to access water Andean people must pay tribute to the mountain deities and other powers that regulate precipitation in the region but that climatic and political change upsets the relation of reciprocity they establish with the environment. It concludes that Peru’s current water crisis has made water emblematic of social and cultural identity in the Andes and turned water management into an issue of political conflict.
4. Astrid Bredholt Stensrud (University of Oslo) email@example.com
Engaging with living water and earth-beings in responses to climate change: a cosmopolitical potential?
Peasant farmers in Colca Valley in the southern Peruvian Andes are experiencing environmental changes that are increasingly being explained by global warming. The most critical effect of climate change is the decreasing water supply due to melting glaciers, drying springs, and irregular rainfall. Farmers also perceive new instabilities – changes in the known seasonal cycle of rain, frost, heat, and drought – which affect their livelihood. The farmers’ varied responses include engaging in relationships with sentient beings in the surroundings: earth-, mountain-, and water-beings. People maintain relations of reciprocity with these beings to ensure fertility, productivity, wellbeing, harvests and water supply. Collective ritual practices have been re-actualized in the past few years because of climate change: making offerings to springs, paying tribute to mountains and calling the rain. For example, an annual ceremony to Mt. Hualca Hualca was taken up again a few years ago to ensure continued water supply from the mountain’s melting glacier. I will discuss to which degree these relational practices have cosmopolitical relevance beyond local livelihood strategies in their potential to challenge current extractivist approaches to nature and change human-environmental relations.
5. Patricia J. Hammer (Center for Social Well Being) firstname.lastname@example.org
Collective Action for Rain: Andean precision in weather perceptions to perform effective Rituals that reinforce Socio-Environmental Solidarity
Last November an extraordinary event took place in the Cordillera Blanca, the highest tropical mountain range on the planet. Distressed by 6 months of drought, a consortium of highland authorities and community members arrived at the conclusion that the much needed precipitation was impeded by an Early Flood Warning device installed by international researchers. The mobilized citizen group ascended to the glacial lake within their communal territory, removed the apparatus, after which the seasonal rains began torrentially. Thousands of years dedicated to the care and nurturing of the nearly 90 delicate ecological niches present in Peru (Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental) by many different ethnic societies reverberates today in the thoughts, perceptions and actions of Andean communities to conserve and revitalize both their natural and social environment. While the IPCC (InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change) meeting to be held in Quito, Ecuador in 2018 verifies the recognition of the importance of the Andes region by scientists, minimal value is given to the centuries old wisdom, carefully constructed knowledge, as well as everyday practices and perceptions of Quechua speaking peoples in understanding and interacting with their surroundings. As director of the Center for Social Well Being located on the Río Chucchun in Carhuaz where this incident occurred, I analyze socio-environmental relations in the Andes relevant for creating new paradigms of social dynamics which motivate cohesion and concerted action that manifest in the face of ecological degradation globally.
Discussant: Astrid Bredholt Stensrud (University of Oslo) email@example.com