The river grew tired of us: Spectral flows along the Mekong River

Andrew Alan JOHNSON


Along the Mekong, where it creates the border between Thailand and Laos, distant hydropower projects have triggered a transformation. Strange floods and ebbs disrupt fish migrations, undercut riverbanks, and sweep away nets. Facing this new landscape, fishermen on the Mekong seek out new, hidden sources of potency that have revealed themselves as well as identifying those old powers that have eroded. Via an ethnographic study of Mekong “river beings,” this article addresses a reconfiguration of sources of power on the river away from the proximate and material, and towards the inaccessible, distant, and spectral.


Southeast Asia, Thailand, animism, environment, migrant labor, ethnography

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/706045