Virtual Issues draw on the vast archives of American Anthropologist to showcase articles that are relevant to contemporary social or political problems.

Source: Pixabay.

This issue on water speaks to wide-ranging environmental challenges, both past and present. In fact, the coeditors of this issue—Nandita Badami, Ashley Peles, Anthony Tricarico, and Sean Mallin—initially planned for this issue to focus on “the environment,” though we quickly realized that this topic was too broad. Nandita suggested we focus instead on a single “element” as an entry point into discussions about the environment.

Water seemed like an obvious choice, given its place at the center of recent popular and scholarly debates about development, infrastructure, public health, social inequality, and climate change, among others. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: an element so vital to human existence is bound to become an object of interest and—in many cases—struggle. The authors showcased here ask questions about access, inequality, and power; about property and governance; about local strife and state violence. They also tackle questions about politics and community: Who has access to wells or irrigation? Who reaps the benefits of hydroelectric power? Who suffers from the effects of polluted water sources?

Together, these articles provide anthropologists with conceptual and methodological tools to address a range of environmental concerns. Of course, this list represents only a handful of the articles that the journal has published on these issues, and is by no means exhaustive. We hope it inspires your own search through the journal’s archives (Anthrosource is a great tool for this!). We invite you to list some of your findings in the comments section.


Articles (available through Anthrosource for free until April 2018)

McAllester, David. 1941. “Water as a Disciplinary Agent among the Crow and Blackfoot.”

Downs, James F. 1965. “The Social Consequences of a Dry Well.”

Mitchell, William P. 1976. “Irrigation and Community in the Central Peruvian Highlands.”

Lansing, Stephen J. 1987. “Balinese ‘Water Temples’ and the Management of Irrigation.”

Levieil, Dominique P., and Benjamin Orlove. 1990. “Local Control of Aquatic Resources: Community and Ecology in Lake Titicaca, Peru.”

Park, Thomas K. 1992. “Early Trends toward Class Stratification: Chaos, Common Property, and Flood Recession Agriculture.”

Scudder, Thayer. 1999. “Water, Culture, and Power: Local Struggles in a Global Context.”

Trawick, Paul. 2001. “The Moral Economy of Water: Equity and Antiquity in the Andean Commons.”

Williams, Brett. 2001. “A River Runs Through Us.”

Lucero, Lisa J. 2002. “The Collapse of the Classic Maya: A Case for the Role of Water Control.”

Darling, J. Andrew, John C. Ravesloot, and Michael R. Waters. 2004. “Village Drift and Riverine Settlement: Modeling Akimel O’odham Land Use.”

Harper, Krista. 2005. “‘Wild Capitalism’ and ‘Ecocolonialism’: A Tale of Two Rivers.”

Peña, Allison H. 2006. “Wade in the Water: Personal Reflections on a Storm, a People, and a National Park.”

Perez Prado, Luz Nereida. 2006. “Globalization, Water, and Health: Resource Management in Times of Scarcity.”

Lauer, Matthew, and Shankar Aswani. 2009. “Indigenous Ecological Knowledge as Situated Practices: Understanding Fishers’ Knowledge in the Western Solomon Islands.”

Helmreich, Stefan. 2011. “Nature/Culture/Seawater.”

Folch, Christine. 2013. “Surveillance and State Violence in Stroessner’s Paraguay: Itaipú Hydroelectric Dam, Archive of Terror.”

Bruno, Maria C. 2014. “Beyond Raised Fields: Exploring Farming Practices and Processes of Agricultural Change in the Ancient Lake Titicaca Basin of the Andes.”

Gewertz, Deborah, and Frederick Errington. 2015. “Doing Good and Doing Well: Prairie Wetlands, Private Property, and the Public Trust.”