In the session of the 20th of October, Dr. Harris began by discussing some concepts and approaches from feminist, decolonial, and Indigenous perspectives and ontologies to help rethink our relationships to other species, as well as to rivers and the animals and plants who depend on those waterways. With such overview, we can think expansively about senses of interconnection, mutuality, and relation that might characterize renewed river relationships and practices.
One term that seeks to convey such renewal of relationships and practices is “multispecies justice”. In her PhD research, Carlota Houart is exploring how we can relate to rivers and their biodiverse communities (human and otherwise) from a multispecies justice perspective. What can MSJ look like in practice; and how can it enrich, challenge, and transform social movements that are working for the conservation, restoration, and defense of rivers around the world?
This webinar invited us to look at rivers as more-than-human entities and territories that bring together a diversity of living subjects, lifeways, and interconnected stories of vulnerability, loss, resilience, and survival. By presenting part of her fieldwork experiences with the Piatúa River, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Carlota argued that members of local Kichwa communities living along this free-flowing river possess a rich multispecies cosmovision. Such cosmovision leads them to protect the river against a planned hydroelectric dam with the explicit purpose of protecting not only their own (human) livelihoods, but also the many other beings who co-inhabit the river; and the river itself. This connects with discussions on care and forms of embodied affect that Dr. Harris had previously approached, showing how everyday ties (e.g. through observing other beings, fishing and hunting, bathing and swimming in the river, learning and implementing conservation practices, and living in the same territory) built over multiple generations of living by a river can lead human communities to rise in defence of multispecies communities when rivers are threatened.
Please download Dr. Harris’s presentation by clicking here.
Carlota Silva Houart
Leila M. Harris
Dr. Leila M. Harris is a Professor at the Institute for Resources Environment and Sustainability (IRES) and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice (GRSJ) at the University of British Columbia. She also serves as Co-Director for UBC’s Program on Water Governance, is a member of the EDGES research collaborative (Environment and Development: Gender, Equity, and Sustainability Perspectives), and is an Associate of the Department of Geography, and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC. Harris’s work examines social, cultural, political-economic, institutional, and equity dimensions of environmental and resource issues.