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The River Grew Tired of Us: New Flows Along the Mekong River

Open lecture with Andrew Johnson, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University.

Along the Mekong, where it creates the border between Thailand and Laos, hydropower projects have triggered a transformation. Strange floods and ebbs disrupt fish migrations, undercut riverbanks, and sweep away nets. Facing this new landscape, fishermen on the Mekong seek out new, hidden sources of potency that have revealed themselves at the same time as other powers fade in importance. Via an ethnographic study of Mekong ‘river beings,’ this article addresses a reconfiguration of sources of power on the river away from the proximate and material, and towards the inaccessible, distant and spectral.

Andrew Alan Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University. After receiving his Ph.D in 2010 in cultural anthropology from Cornell University, he has held positions at Yale-NUS College, the National University of Singapore, and Columbia University. His first book, Ghosts of the New City, was published in 2014 by University of Hawaii Press, and his second book, Shadows on the Mekong, is under review.

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