Brazil and water

– Resource conflicts and the dissolution of the dichotomy between nature and culture? –

Interdisciplinary conference by the Working-Group Brazil of the  ADLAF – German Association of Latin American Research | 4th and 5th of December 2015 | University of Hamburg

„O sertão vai virar mar
Dói no coração
O medo que algum dia
O mar também vire sertão.“

„The sertão transforms into sea
anxiety hurts in the heart,
that one day the sea
transforms into sertão as well.“
(aus Sá e Guarabyra: „Sobradinho“, 1977)

Water has been an important subject of the arts and philosophy for a very long time. In its theory of the four elements, Ancient philosophy already described it as a vital element for (human) life and often portrayed it as a deity. Brazilian art and literature also has a rich tradition of dealing with its exuberant water resources, their unequal distribution und the country’s periodic droughts. One thinks of examples like Gracilano Ramos’ Vidas secas, Raquel de Queiroz’ O quinze, Euclides da Cunha’s Os sertões, Guimarães Rosa’s Grande Sertão Veredas or of the song quoted above which was written in 1977 and which denounces the consequences of the discharge of the river São Francisco.

No country in the world has greater fresh water resources than Brazil. But despite this fact, almost 40% of its population, about 77 million Brazilians, are affected by the current water crisis. The explosive nature of this topic becomes obvious not only through the severest drought for 80 years, which has forced authorities to ration drinking water in South-East Brazil. A survey from 2013 had already predicted that sixteen from the total of 29 urban centres would have to look for new sources to be able to supply water until the year 2015. Like in California, the population is now asked to save water, which seemes quite absurd due to the fact that in Brazil, 72 per cent of the total water consumption are ascribed to the export-oriented agricultural industry. Adding to this, Brazil also suffers from massive reforestation of its rain forest and its cerrado, mismanagement and inefficiency of water supply, a dilapidated infrastructure, a heavily resource-consuming “Green Economy”, failed environmental policies and other resource conflicts.

This conference deals not only with these current social and political questions but also with the way they are reflected in the arts and philosophy. We are especially interested in the following questions: What is the cause of the current crisis? How predictable was it? Which solutions and Utopias exist? What kinds of relationships can a society have towards nature? How far is the dichotomy between nature and culture dissolved through the way resources are used? And how is all this reflected in art? “Dói no coração o medo que algum dia o mar também vire sertão….“.

We are happy that Prof. Dr. Erik Swyngedouw (University of Manchester), one of the most distinguished geographers with a research focus on water, will open the conference with a lecture on “Liquid Power”.

Official Languages:
Portuguese, Spanish and English

Prof. Dr. Markus Klaus Schäffauer | Institute for Romance Studies, University of Hamburg
Dr. Tobias Schmitt | Institute for Geography, University of Hamburg
Dr. des. Júlio César Moreira Matias | Institute for Romance Studies, University of Hamburg
Dr. Gilberto Rescher | Center for Latin American Studies, University of Hamburg
M.A. Yôko Woldering | Institute for Romance Studies, University of Hamburg
Prof. Dr. Markus K. Schäffauer
– Vorsitzender der AG Brasilien der ADLAF –
Institut für Romanistik der Universität Hamburg
Von-Melle-Park 6
20146 Hamburg