Luke PARRY, Lancaster University (Lancaster Environment Centre), United Kingdom
Gemma DAVIES, Lancaster University (Lancaster Environment Centre), United Kingdom
Andre DE MORAES, Independent researcher, Brazil
This paper explores how space and spatial relations shape the visibility, bodily effects and governance of slow emergencies; an emerging concept for recognizing the attritional harm experienced by marginalized peoples. Anderson et al. (2019) define slow emergencies as failing to provoke concern, racialized and causing unseen yet lethal harm. They indicate a spatio-temporal distribution in harm and emergency governance, relevant to the argument that – as an invisibility – spatial marginalization contributes to vulnerability and biased understanding of climate-health risks (Parry et al. 2019). We adopt topolography (Hönke & Cuesta-Fernandez 2017), accounting for topographic (e.g. distance) and topological (non-Eucledian, (dis)empowering spatial relations) dimensions of slow emergencies. We focus on how hydrological seasonality and floods/droughts affect riverine transport and marginalized urban Amazonians, using interviews with boat captains, GPS-tracking, analysis of health-data and emergency governance discourse. Boats face everyday struggles to supply remote towns due to costly, long journeys (median 420km) and hazards. Despite attempts to cope with changing river-levels, ≥27 towns experience periodic disconnect. Boat accidents are common, often fatal, but go mostly unnoticed. Yet, citizens use topological tactics to make accidents visible, bringing the state within reach. Connecting distant towns is political; local elites own boat-fleets, maintaining monopolies. Owners are key political patrons, involved in municipal ‘claiming’ of emergencies. Transport costs and inequities underlie high food prices in remote towns, contributing to severe food insecurity and child malnutrition; biopolitical violence folded into everyday life, eroding the vital capacities of the urban poor. We conclude that 'topolographical' research holds promise for understanding how invisibilities exacerbate the vulnerability of marginalized subpopulations to environmental and climatic change.
Mots clés : Brazil|towns|transport|spatial theory|drought