The geographies of settler colonialism: Joel E. Correia, ‘Between Flood and Drought: Environmental Racism, Settler Waterscapes, and Indigenous Water Justice in South America’s Chaco’, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 2022


Abstract: This article advances a novel approach to investigating geographies of settler colonialism and environmental justice through a critical physical geography (CPG) of water scarcity in the South American Chaco. Drawing from multimethod research conducted in collaboration with Enxet and Sanapaná communities in Paraguay, I evaluate how waterscape change produces social vulnerability with a focus on Indigenous access to safe drinking water. Stemming from a seemingly simple question—how have annual flood and drought events in the Chaco become malignant for Enxet and Sanapaná peoples—my analysis centers on current struggles for Indigenous rights amidst Paraguay’s booming ranching industry. I use an eclectic data set—from historical missionary accounts, seventy-two household questionnaires, mapping new waterscapes, and a political economy of cattle ranching—to show how settler waterscapes produce environmental racism by limiting Indigenous access to “good” water. I argue that the prevalence of water scarcity in Indigenous communities across the Bajo Chaco is not a natural result of biophysical geography but a socially produced outcome of how settler waterscapes rework hydrosocial relations along racial lines. CPG offers a way to bridge biophysical analysis with critical social theory to expand geographic understandings of settler colonialism and its effects on Indigenous environmental justice.

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