Rivers in the Anthropocene: Global Challenges and Local Responses
July 6-7, 2019 | 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Conference Center 1095
Duke Kunshan University,
Kunshan, Jiangsu, China

The workshop compares the historical interactions between rivers and human societies across the global south in Asia, Africa and Latin America. One of the major goals is to observe how these river-based societies respond to the Anthropocene, when climate change and water disasters are beginning to overwhelm societies across the world. As a planetary phenomenon, the Anthropocene necessitates a global understanding of the problem and solutions. Previous long-term studies focused principally on a single river and its riverine communities. In this workshop, we seek to compare the patterns of water-society relationships globally over the long view to gain a sense of recurrent and novel problems and possible solutions in the current era of the Anthropocene. What were the conditions– social and natural, institutional and environmental– under which water was managed; and when and how did they lead to prosperity, survival or decline?

By comparing river ecologies and human-water relationships over the long durée across continental rivers, we explore the unevenness of water management’s effects, where some groups benefited and others did not, where some tactics worked in some communities but not others, and where some species thrived but others vanished. How did different classes, different genders, and various social groups (racial, ethnic, and occupational, etc.) use and define water bodies and how were they defined by water? How have riverine eco-systems and the species they spawn been affected by human interventions such as colonial engineering and modern large-scale constructions?