The Social Saga of Sediments in Bengal
By using the term “fluid”, this article critically interrogates western ontologies of “solid” (land) and “liquid” (flowing waters), which were transplanted in colonial South Asia and transmitted in post-Independence river/water policies and actions with severe socio-ecological implications. Drawing lessons from recent environmental history and political ecology of water (“hydrosocial”) literature that shed light on liminal scapes beyond the mainstream land/water binary in hydrological studies, this study conceptualizes “fluidscapes” by drawing on field research in the river islands (chars) of Lower Bengal. By capturing snippets of livelihoods in the chars of the Malda and Murshidabad districts, West Bengal, situated upstream and downstream of the Farakka Barrage respectively, this article advances why and how it is imperative to rethink sediment beyond its physical-geomorphological existence and to see it as social sites of interactions. It unravels avenues through which chars can be perceived as not only emblems of uncertainty but also as zones of possibility bestowed with rich ecosystem services and the collective resilience of choruas.
Appadurai, Arjun and Carol A. Breckenridge. 2009. “Foreword.” In Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary, edited by Anuradha Mathur and Dilip Da Cunha, 1–3. New Delhi: Rupa Publications.
Baruah, Mitul and Jenia Mukherjee. 2018. “Rivers and Estuaries.” In The Routledge International Handbook of Island Studies, edited by Godfrey Baldacchino, 324–338. Oxon and New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315556642-15
Basu, Madhurilata, Rajat Roy, and Ranabir Samaddar. 2018. Political Ecology of Survival: Life and Labour in the River Lands of East and North-East India. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.
Das, Saudamini. 2012. “The Role of Natural Ecosystems and Socio-economic Factors in the Vulnerability of Coastal Villages to Cyclone and Storm Surge.” Natural Hazards 64 (June): 531–546. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0255-9. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0255-9
Das, Saudamini and Nisha Maria D’Souza. 2020. “Identifying the Local Factors of Resilience during Cyclone Hudhud and Phailin on the East Coast of India.” Ambio 49 (September): 950–961. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-019-01241-7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-019-01241-7
D’Souza, Rohan. 2006. “Water in British India: The Making of a ‘Colonial Hydrology.’” History Compass 4 (4): 621–628. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1478-0542.2006.00336.x
Howitt, Richie. 2001. “Frontiers, Borders and Edges: Liminal Challenges to the Hegemony of Exclusion. Australian Geographical Studies 39 (2): 233–245. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8470.00142. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8470.00142
De Micheaux, Flore Lafaye, Jenia Mukherjee, and Christian A. Kull. 2018. “When Hydrosociality Encounters Sediments: Transformed Lives and Livelihoods in the Lower Basin of the Ganges River.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 1 (4): 641–663. https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848618813768. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848618813768
Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala. 2014. “Beyond the Water-Land Binary in Geography: Water/Lands of Bengal Re-visioning Hybridity.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 13 (3): 505–529.
Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala, and Gopa Samanta. 2013. Dancing with the River: People and Life on the Chars of South Asia. Yale: Yale University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.12987/yale/9780300188301.001.0001
Linton, Jamie and Jessica Budds. 2014. “The Hydrosocial Cycle: Deﬁning and Mobilizing a Relational-Dialectical Approach to Water.” Geoforum 57 (November): 170–180. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.10.008. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.10.008
Mukherjee, Jenia. 2011. No Voice, No Choice: Riverine Changes and Human Vulnerability in the “Chars” of Malda and Murshidabad. Occasional Paper 28. Kolkata: Institute of Development Studies. http://idsk.edu.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/OP-28.pdf.
Mukherjee, Jenia. 2018. “From Hydrology to Hydrosociality: Historiography of Waters in India.” In Routledge Handbook of the History of Sustainability, edited by Jeremy L. Caradonna, 254–272. UK: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315543017-16
Rudra, Kalyan. 2003. The Encroaching Ganga and Social Conﬂicts: The Case of West Bengal, India. West Bengal: Department of Geography, Habra H.C. Mahavidyalaya.
Copyright (c) 2020 Mukherjee and Ghosh
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
The author(s) retain copyright on work published by INSEE unless specified otherwise.
Licensing and publishing rights
Author(s) of work published by INSEE are required to grant INSEE the unlimited rights to publish the definitive work in any format, language and medium, for any lawful purpose. INSEE requires journal authors to publish their work in open access under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license.
The authors retain the non-exclusive right to do anything they wish with the published article(s), provided attribution is given to the Ecology, Economy and Society—the INSEE Journal with details of the original publication, as set out in the official citation of the article published in the journal. The retained right specifically includes the right to post the article on the authors’ or their institution’s websites or in institutional repositories.
In case of re-publishing a previously published work, author may note that earlier publication may have taken place a license different from Creative Commons. In all such cases of re-publishing, we advise the authors to consult the applicable licence at article level.