Beyond the water-land binary in geography: Water/lands of Bengal re-visioning hybridity Kuntala Lahiri-Dut
Keywords:water, hybridity, land, floodplains, fluvial action, colonial, postcolonial, interventions, land tenure, revenue collection
AbstractThis paper proposes a theoretical approach to hybridity, a flexible or “wet” theory that does not pretend to be universal, that can accommodate flux, and that is contextualised in locational terms and comfortable with empirical facts. More specifically, it argues for reconsideration of one of the foundational binaries, that of land and water, within the rubric of hybrid environments. The paper suggests that it is possible, thinking through the historical production of water/lands, for geographers to move beyond what has become an indissoluble dichotomy. To make these points, it takes readers to the floodplains of Bengal, which have conventionally been seen as products of fluvial action, and shows the critical roles played by colonial (and postcolonial) interventions – including changes in land tenure and revenue collection – to have produced hybrid environments that can potentially destabilize the conventional water-land binary characterised by their uncertain existence, their indeterminacy, and their fluid liminal presence as ambiguous temporal, cultural, and political geographies.
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