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Delta Life

Exploring Dynamic Environments where River Meet the Sea

Edited by Franz Krause and Mark Harris


Proposing a series of innovative steps towards better understanding human lives at the interstices of water and land, this volume includes eight ethnographies from deltas around the world. The book presents ‘delta life’ with intimate descriptions of the predicaments, imaginations and activities of delta inhabitants. Conceptually, the collection develops ‘delta life’ as a metaphor for approaching continual and intersecting sociocultural, economic and material transformations more widely. The book revolves around questions of hydrosociality, volatility, rhythms and scale. It thereby yields insights into people’s lives that conventional, hydrological approaches to deltas cannot provide.

Reviews and Endorsements
“This volume does more than assemble ethnographic studies of delta inhabitants from around the world. It weaves their experience into a sustained reflection on life in a volatile world of islands, reedbeds, coasts and swamps, a world ever made, unmade and remade, as much by spirits as by people, and as much by states and markets as by the elements of air, earth and water. Here, the lens of the delta affords rare insight into what it means to live downstream.” • Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen

“Starting from the dynamic instability of river deltas as volatile biosocial entities, the contributors to this pioneering volume jolt us to rethink our ideas about coastal edges and the beings, matter, and practices through which they form and persist. Revelatory in their account of life at the margins of river, sea, and land, these essays share a close attention to the intimacies of "hydrosocial relations" that offers unexpacted ways of bringing together history, politics, and ecology and opens new analytic possibilities far beyond the localities in which they're sited” • Hugh Raffles, The New School

“This is an original book that offers a variety of approaches to conceptualizing, empirically studying, and theorizing deltas as distinct sites of socio-material relations. The authors offer contrasting and complementing approaches that make the volume a useful introduction to the theme.” • Andrea Ballestero, Rice University

“I think that the book is excellent and will make an important contribution to debates in the field.” • Jason Cons, University of Texas at Austin

Open access book: full text available here

Volume 28 | Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology
First published in 2021 by Berghahn Books, Oxford
©2021 Franks Krause and Mark Harris