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Water and the Preclassic Maya at El Tintal, Petén, Guatemala

As part of the 1931 Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Uaxactun expedition, geologist C.W. Cooke (1931: 286) noted, “If the bajos were restored to their former condition, the Petén would be a region of many beautiful lakes. Travel in it would be easy, for one could go from place to place by boat, with only short journeys overland, from one lake to another, across country that offers little impediment to travel at any season.” These bajos mentioned by Cooke, low-lying swampy areas prone to flooding, are spread throughout most of the northern lowlands of Petén, Guatemala, characterizing the region with seasonal and perennial wetland systems.

Ethnography and Archaeology of Water in the Maya Lowlands

Procuring potable water is an important factor for daily life in the semitropics, especially for contemporary populations in rural Guatemala. Seasonal subsistence practices are crucial for survival, especially regarding agriculture, droughts, and flooding. This article focuses on the Salinas de los Nueve Cerros region in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala to highlight contemporary land-use practices among the Q’eqchi’ Maya, their adaptations to flooding, droughts, and uses of different water resources.

The Political Binds of Oil versus Tribes

In late 2018, while researching the connections between environmental justice and Indigenous womxn’s activism[1], I was invited to story about how water might respond to environmental injustice and racism. In preparation, I thought about how the lands and peoples to which I belong struggle against “slow violence” brought on by the toxic effects of uranium contamination and nuclear pollution…

“The Soul to See”: Toward a Hoodoo Ethnography

In his book, How Racism Takes Place, George Lipsitz (2011: 5) contends that “race is produced by space,” and that “it takes places for racism to take place.” While Lipsitz focuses primarily on the intersection of race and space in urban settings, racialized spatial practices in rural environments can be just as devastating to communities of color, if not more so.

Meandering and Riversphere: The Potential of Paradox

Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BCE-475 BCE) was the master of paradox: “It rests by changing,” “a thing agrees at variance with itself,” and “the same: living and dead, and the waking and the sleeping, and the young and the old” (Kahn 1979, Fragments LII, LXXVIII, XCIII). Both Plato and Aristotle saw his views as logically incoherent and inconsistent with the law of non-contradiction.

Paradoxes of Water: A Reading List

Questions about water are often implicitly about systems of power. The benefits and impacts of how water is used, distributed, and accessed are unevenly distributed. Water thus becomes a site where the inequalities in society are made visible and contestation arises. The readings listed here offer a sample of some of the ways water is implicated in systems of inequality and work toward social justice.

Review of Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene

There is something quite embarrassing about reading a book in public that appears to be upside down. The collaborative piece of work known as Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet is separated into two parts: “Monsters and the Art of Living” and “Ghosts on a Damaged Planet.” The reader must physically turn the book upside down to get from one part to the other. On each cover’s bottom right corner, a hint of the other side’s cover is present…

Eyes on Large Lakes

“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” So said H.D. Thoreau in Walden, conjuring an image of human eyes peering intently into Earth’s eyes, and learning something profound in the process. Indeed, who among us hasn’t gazed into one of these watery eyes of Earth, into a lake’s mysterious depths, and had their souls stirred, their curiosity piqued?…

The Future of Agriculture in a Water-Rich State

In 1920, Minnesota held 2.4 million people and 132,744 farms. Corn production was near 100 million bushels per year. By 1929, 18.5 million acres were under cultivation. Nearly 100 years later, the state has 5.4 million people, 74,500 farms, and 26 million acres of farmland. Annual production of corn is about 1.5 billion bushels and soybean is about 380 million bushels. Over that century, agricultural technology and infrastructure changed profoundly…