Witness to a passing: The silent death of local water management and the quiet hand of government

Amy Elizabeth Stambach, Aikande Clement Kwayu


Water stories told in Kilimanjaro Region, such as Mami Wata narratives conveyed across Africa and the Atlantic, give horrific insights into morally problematic forms of wealth acquisition through environmental destruction. This paper approaches farmers’ stories of water spirits and water management practices as indices of farmers’ witness to their own social displacement by government-backed agribusinesses. Analysis shows that farmers are drawn to, and are already part of, a system that waits and watches for their death. As perverse as many forms of necropolitics can be, this form of social devivification, duplicitously advanced in the name of environmental conservation and sustainability, is all too familiar and ordinary. This article unveils agro-industrial conceits about water management and contrasts these conceits to farmers’ life-sustaining practices.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/716216