By Carlota Silva Houart | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
The second Riverside Meeting took place on 25 February on campus at Wageningen University, with a lecture from Professor Ana Mariella Bacigalupo. The presentation and discussion that ensued focused on Bacigalupo’s latest article, “Subversive Cosmopolitics in the Anthropocene: On Sentient Landscapes and the Ethical Imperative in Northern Peru” (Bacigalupo, 2021); and an additional reading for the meeting included Adriana Paola Paredes Peñafiel’s and Fabiana Li’s “Nourishing Relations: Controversy over the Conga Mining Project in Northern Peru” (Peñafiel and Li, 2019). Both the articles and the lecture and discussion intersected with one of the four central ontological dimensions of the Riverhood and River Commons projects – that of river-as-subject. In particular, Bacigalupo’s lecture raised interesting questions among the audience about different topics, like the plurality of existing ontologies about Nature and about the role of humans in relationship with Nature. Namely, questions and reflections focused on lively and sentient conceptions of natural entities such as mountains (here represented in the figure of the Apu, according to Peruvian shamans that Bacigalupo engaged with during her research). Some also focused on the role of researchers (anthropologists or otherwise) and their own beliefs and/or practical involvement in the kind of subjects that they are researching on, especially when such subjects may touch upon the borders between – for instance – science and spirituality. This Riverside Meeting was overall an interesting and enriching opportunity to reflect on the abyssal lines (Santos, 2014) between different forms of knowledge; different understandings of the relations between nature and (human) society; and the potential tensions and contradictions that lie not only between divergent worldviews, but also between varying ways of conducting research and producing scientific or academic knowledge.