Disputation: Mónica Amador Jiménez
Master Mónica Amador Jiménez at the Department of Social Anthropology will be defending the thesis Making Ciénaga: Amphibious Entanglements in a Body of Water in Colombia for the degree of Ph.D.
Digital Public Defence
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Title: Does water have rights, and if so how can this be spoken?
- Professor Nefissa Naguib, Department of Social Anthropology, Universitety of Oslo
- Professor Astrid Ulloa, Departamento de Geografía, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
- Professor John McNeish, Faculty of Landscape and Society, International Environment and Development Studies, Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Chair of defence
Associate Professor Rune Flikke, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo
About the Thesis
This dissertation, based on research done in Colombia’s Middle Magdalena Valley, explores the conditions and factors that have allowed for the continued existence of a body of water, a so-called ciénaga, and its human inhabitants, in a context marked by decades of crude oil contamination, agricultural encroachment and violence.
The fieldwork in Colombia was conducted between 2014 and 2015 and lasted for eleven months. During this time, the author carried out participant observation and interviews, organized workshops, did archival work and analyzed public and private documents. This was done in order to answer the research question: How have the ciénaga and its inhabitants, the fisherfolk-colonos, persisted in spite of adverse circumstances in the geographical area of study, and what is the character of this persistence? The researcher asks why this ciénaga has survived while similar bodies of water, located in the surrounding areas, have disappeared.
This research is an exploration of resilient thinking, approached from the perspectives of both decoloniality and political ontology, and of the understanding of ecological collectives composed of human and non-human agents. When exploring the persistence of this body of water, the author studies the different knowledge practices that intervene materially and semiotically in making ciénaga, such as those of the fisherfolk-colonos. She delves into their history, interacts with families and community organizations, examines their livelihood strategies and how these intertwine with oil extraction practices in one of the oldest oil fields in Colombia.
The author then looks at the formation of right-wing paramilitary structures in this region, their practices of spatialization in the ciénaga and the political ecology they display. She also analyzes how paramilitary practices are interwoven with those of the fisherfolk-colonos and the oil company. Another group that converges in the ciénaga, and to which attention is paid in the study, are biologists, who are active in the region for different reasons. Some are working for the oil company while others are doing academic research or are engaged in the implementation of environmental policies. Just like the other groups, these biologists participate in the making of ciénaga and also in its transformation into a humedal (a wetland) or some other conceptualization, transformations that have semiotic, material and assemblage effects.
While some practices undermine the very existence of the ciénaga such as those related to oil extractión and paramilitarism as well as some biological practices, the fisherfolk-colonos have managed to articulate artfully with these different practices to keep the ciénaga and themselves alive. The author has crafted the term ‘amphibian disposition’ to describe the inhabitants’ willingness and ability to articulate with, and adapt to, different practices and to navigate difficulties, a disposition that characterizes the situated resilience of this biosocial assemblage.