South Asian Chars as Destabilizers

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Jenia Mukherjee

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Many researchers have studied chars as physical and geomorphological entities and have categorized them into various ‘types’. This chapter asks: ‘Can chars be seen also as symbols?’ ‘What do the chars symbolize?’ We investigate these questions in this chapter, in light of recent social science research that has critiqued the inherent scientism on which many such studies are founded. In particular, we argue that the small, unstable and impermanent chars are powerful because they are symbols of destabilization. By their very existence, chars demolish a number of dearly held scientific concepts and ideas. Of these, the idea of rivers as carriers of only water is one. Chars also subvert the notion of people as essentially sedentary and land as permanent and safe, and disrupt the view of land and water as two fundamentally separate physical elements of nature. Finally, and most crucially for their futures in the increasingly uncertain world, chars and the lives of people who live on them also dislocate the notion of ‘adaptation’, by showing that people on chars are continually adjusting on a daily basis to make the best out of their local environments. We deploy ‘chars as destabilizers’ as the theoretical traction to complicate meanings and perceptions across ‘stable’ and ‘unstable’ in environments to underline that such environments and habitats are in a continual flux.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLiving on the Edge
    Editors Mohammad Zaman, Mustafa Alam
    Place of PublicationSwitzerland
    ISBN (Print)978-3-030-73591-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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