In this article, we explore a contrast between terrestrial and amphibious ways of imagining and intervening in deltas, which have given rise to contrasting delta ontologies. Whereas the former originated in Europe and focused on removing water for agriculture, the latter conceived of deltas as extending water flows. In Thailand’s Chao Phraya Delta these incongruent approaches have inspired very different forms of infrastructural development over the last century. Examining the entwined histories of agency of people—engineers, scientists, traders, and kingdoms—and non-humans, such as canals, dikes, and landscapes, we trace how the delta’s ontology was transformed by the gradual layering of partly incompatible infrastructures. In light of increasing floods, the continued sustainability of Bangkok may now depend on amphibious infrastructures lying half-forgotten within this ontological palimpsest.
Infrastructural Transformations in the Chao Phraya Delta, Thailand
Atsuro Morita and Casper Bruun Jensen
Minor Traditions, Shizen Equivocations, and Sophisticated Conjunctions
Casper Bruun Jensen and Atsuro Morita
This introduction examines the interrelations between the possible existence of multiple nature-cultures and the indisputable existence of distinct anthropological traditions. After offering some preliminary remarks on the problems with nature-culture, the article offers as an example the complex translations required for the Western idea of nature to gain foothold in Japanese anthropology. Patched together from Western and Chinese notions, Japanese ‘nature’ remains equivocal to this day. This equivocation, however, has also been generative of minor anthropological traditions. As this suggests, the advance of different concepts into new territories holds the potential for shaping ‘sophisticated conjunctions’ in which traditions are mutually modified, allowing new forms of nature and culture emerge.