Luisa Cortesi, PhD

2012 TRI Fellow in India

Living in Floods: Knowledge(s) and Technologies of Disastrous Water In North Bihar, India

This project wishes to study how people in rural north Bihar, India, live in and make sense of the multiple waters that surround them in their flood-prone landscape. The inhabitants of North Bihar live between, and within, the multiple rivers that construct and recurrently destroy their living space, above the earthen walls that embank the rivers, and the resulting waterlogging created by lack of drainage. They live in and with recurrent floods, which have dramatically worsened since the ecology has been modified by the technology of levees, and wash away their housing and livelihood on a regular basis. The people living in these areas make use of the water around them, accessing it though different technologies, and confronting its changing quantity and quality, particularly consequential for the water they drink. 

The purpose of this research is to understand how people engage with water in their daily practices and how they conceptualize the recent changes in their waterscape and in the technologies to access water. This query provides a perspective on wider debates about human knowledge in rapid environmental change and about how disasters influence practices, knowledge and technology in the provision of basic amenities in resource-poor areas. The proposed research addresses these questions through an ethnographic study of everyday practices and knowledges of water in rural Bihar, India. 

Key words: Water, Disaster, Environmental change, Knowledge, Technologies.