Remaking of wetlands and coping with vulnerabilities in Mexico and Indonesia

Anja Nygren
Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; anja.nygren@helsinki.fi

Anu Lounela
Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; anu.lounela@helsinki.fi

ABSTRACT: This article analyses people’s water-land relations in transformed wetlands through a lens that conceptualises aquatic and terrestrial aspects in wetland-dwellers’ living spaces as blurred and shifting. By drawing on empirical research in Tabasco, Mexico, and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, we examine how wetlands have been recurrently remade amidst multifaceted development interventions and how local people perceive and experience waterscape changes in their lives and livelihoods. There has been a strong emphasis on wetness and fluidity in research on riverine, deltaic, and other amphibious environments; however, we argue that privileging water as an analytical concept makes it hard to understand changing water-land fluctuations in wetlands as wet-lands. By combining ideas from political ecology, critical geography, and anthropology of water, our analysis shows how local people engage in making watery areas more solid in order to get their land rights recognised and to cope with socially differentiated vulnerabilities within multifaceted state territorialisations and corporate resource-makings.

KEYWORDS: Development interventions, political ecology, vulnerability, water, wetlands, Indonesia, Mexico