The Culture of Rivers

Course Code
ANTH 2590
Saad Quasem
Graduate Instructor

This course aims to unravel the cultural complexities of rivers stemming from the cyclical process of man attempting to tame the seemingly violent flows, drawing on the rather gradual streams and the river's autonomous effort to thwart any such control. At this point in time, climatic changes gloomily loom, a liberal economy booms unforeseen inequality and a paralyzing pandemic at too close a distance, it seems like the perfect time to wind into the futures the river systems has in store.  This J-Term course focuses on looking beyond the lines drawn by cartographers to demarcate the river. Rather we will focus on engaging with the distinct riverine imaginaries culturally diffused across different parts of the planet. The course has been planned so that integrating policy level debates about pressing issues such as waste disposal, water pollution and contamination, effects of climate change, politico-legal tensions determining the territory of the river, etc with ethnographic accounts of issues opens up a culturally informed account of riverine problems and imaginaries. Every segment of the course investigates the historical roots of the contemporary cases in hand.  Friction from the initiation of modernist ideas on traditional societies are also discussed in effort to see its effects on river systems. The last segment of the course covers an in-depth analysis of river futures based on the recent trend of awarding human rights to river bodies. Cumulatively, the course aims to inform students to carry an informed decision on the riverine cultures from the point of view of those who live within the river.