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Lines in the Water

Nature and Culture at Lake Titicaca

Ben Orlove (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 314 pages
ISBN: 9780520229594
June 2002
$31.95, £27.00
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This beautifully written book weaves reflections on anthropological fieldwork together with evocative meditations on a spectacular landscape as it takes us to the remote indigenous villages on the shore of Lake Titicaca, high in the Peruvian Andes. Ben Orlove brings alive the fishermen, reed cutters, boat builders, and families of this isolated region, and describes the role that Lake Titicaca has played in their culture. He describes the landscapes and rhythms of life in the Andean highlands as he considers the intrusions of modern technology and economic demands in the region. Lines in the Water tells a local version of events that are taking place around the world, but with an unusual outcome: people here have found ways to maintain their cultural autonomy and to protect their fragile mountain environment.

The Peruvian highlanders have confronted the pressures of modern culture with remarkable vitality. They use improved boats and gear and sell fish to new markets but have fiercely opposed efforts to strip them of their indigenous traditions. They have retained their customary practice of limiting the amount of fishing and have continued to pass cultural knowledge from one generation to the next--practices that have prevented the ecological crises that have followed commercialization of small-scale fisheries around the world. This book--at once a memoir and an ethnography--is a personal and compelling account of a research experience as well as an elegantly written treatise on themes of global importance. Above all, Orlove reminds us that human relations with the environment, though constantly changing, can be sustainable.
List of Illustrations
Preface: Lakes
1. Not Forgetting
2. Mountains
3. Names
4. Work
5. Fish
6. Reeds
7. Paths
Ben Orlove is Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis, and Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. Among his previous books are State, Capital, and Rural Society: Anthropological Perspectives on Political Economy in Mexico and the Andes (1989), which he coedited, and In My Father's Study (1995).
"Lines in the Water is both an unusually thoughtful book and a major contribution to the discussion on 'sustainable development.'"—James Ferguson, author of Expectations of Modernity

"Ben Orlove knows the cultural communities and landscapes of Lake Titicaca like the back of his hand, but relates them to an entire body of literature about lake-dwelling cultures. His thematic approach to mountains, water, names and other elements of the Titicaca environs makes for rich reading and provocative debate. This book takes the field of political ethno-ecology to heights never before imagined by other practitioners."—Gary Nabhan, author of Cultures of Habitat and Coming Home to Eat

"In this illuminating account of life around Lake Titicaca, Ben Orlove draws on his curiosity and experience to offer the reader a rich sense of places, voices, sights, and even pathways. Combining descriptions of everyday practices and history, political and economic forces, and personal memories, he provides an insightful ethnography, an imaginative achievement, and a fine read."—Stephen Gudeman, author of The Anthropology of Economy

"A brave, accessible, and often lyrical account of Lake Titicaca and its people's successful struggle to manage their own resources. Orlove wears his deep learning lightly: a pleasure to read."—James C. Scott, Yale University

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