Owning climate change among the Makushi and Akawaio

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This chapter examines perceptions and ontologies concerning climatic changes in the Makushi villages of Surama and Yupukari and in the Akawaio village of Kamarang/Warawatta in Guyana. In 2021, these villages experienced reportedly unprecedented flooding that severely disrupted cassava-based agriculture and was attributed by many villagers to climate change. In addition to flooding, villagers also report recent seasonal irregularities, such as unpredictable rainfall and increased temperature. For many, traditional survival strategies, such as past responses to droughts and other crises, are no longer seen as fully addressing contemporary climatic and ecological challenges. This chapter will examine accounts and experiences of changing ecological conditions and explore related ontologies. In this chapter, the term "ontologies" refers to divergent realities (particularly concerning the plethora of beings locally posited within the landscape) and contrasting phenomenological experiences. For many Makushi and Akawaio people, weather phenomena are centered around animistic notions of "ownership" in the historical-ecological landscape which implicate non-human beings. In this context, ownership refers to a relational mode through which aspects of the landscape are controlled, protected, and sometimes nurtured. Landscape-centered ontologies foreground relational modes, such as ownership, that hold ongoing relevance for climate change among the Makushi and Akawaio in Guyana.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimatic and ecological change in the Americas
Subtitle of host publicationa perspective from historical ecology
EditorsJames Andrew Whitaker, Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, Guillaume Odonne
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2023

Publication series

NameNew frontiers in historical ecology


  • Climate change
  • Makushi
  • Akawaio
  • Guyana
  • Amazonia
  • Indigenous peoples of the Amazon


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