Amphibious Worlds: Environments, Infrastructures, Ontologies
Presently, we are witness to a global intensification of water-related disasters related to flooding, sinking erosion, and drought, reflecting changes in global water circulation, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns. Indeed, water is often the medium through which the message of climate change is delivered. Conventionally, water-related engineering projects have managed amphibious spaces through terrestrial approaches premised on removing or controlling water, for example by land reclamation and drainage. They can be contrasted with amphibious approaches that take water flows as a given and organize life around it––as exemplified by living in floating villages or houses on stilts, using water as a primary mode of transportation, or growing crops in water. Yet, the amphibious is gaining new life, as water seems to be increasingly flowing back into land, everywhere giving rise to emergencies that call for creative response. Thus, urban planners, engineers, and architects devise new infrastructures and models adaptive to environments that are becoming amphibious once again, or for the first time, and people living in watery environments everywhere find ways of adapting to increasingly amphibious circumstances. Doing so, they are contributing to the ongoing ontological transformation of amphibious worlds. This introduction to the thematic collection on “Amphibious Worlds: Environments, Infrastructures, Ontologies,” outlines some of the key issues facing STS and anthropological studies of such worlds, and introduces the papers that follow.
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