Episode 9 The River is a Goddess: Environmental Anthropology with Dr. Georgina Drew

Dr. Georgina Drew (Photo courtesy of Dr. Drew)

The Ganga River in India is a goddess, who has a long history of protecting and caring for her followers. But as a source of water, how do followers balance their respect for the goddess amid the various ways they are supported by her? The practical needs of the surrounding population, like fresh water, electricity, and industrial development, meet the spiritual needs of absolution through water burial, redemption through bathing in her free flowing waters, and the broader desire to protect the goddess who provides for so many.

Hydroelectric dam redirects flow out of the riverbed in the Garhwal Mountains (Photo courtesy of Dr. Drew)

Environmental Anthropologist Dr. Georgina Drew explains how a river is many things to its surrounding inhabitants—they have religious concerns, economic concerns, and ecological concerns—but different people prioritize them differently. There’s no one perspective on how to use the river. Dr. Drew discusses how our cultural ideas, practices, and beliefs about the earth are central to how we impact it. Taking a humanistic, anthropological approach means viewing the partnership between the environment and ourselves, and how each impacts the other.

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For more information on Dr. Georgina Drew:

A man sells ritual items used by Hindus to worship the Ganga in Rishikesh, (Photo courtesy of Dr. Georgina Drew)

Dr. Drew’s university research page: https://researchers.adelaide.edu.au/profile/georgina.drew#my-research

Dr. Drew’s academia page: https://adelaide.academia.edu/GinaDrew

More information on Dr. Drew’s research:

Dr. Drew’s book about her research into the relationship between the Ganga as goddess and the Ganga as water source: River Dialogues: Hindu Faith and the Political Ecology of Dams on the Sacred Ganga (Critical Green Engagements: Investigating the Green Economy and its Alternatives)

River Dialogues was recently featured on the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology: http://us15.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5da421acac235473df472e31a&id=869e3e13e5

River Dialogues is part of a broader book series entitled “Critical Green Engagements: Investigating the Green Economy and its Alternatives”: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/series/series_detail.php?s=32

More information on topics discussed in this episode:

A statue of the Goddess Ganga looks out over a dry riverbed in Haridwar, India. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Drew)

Julie Cruikshank’s book about how environmental features like glaciers play an active role in humans’ lives and belief systems: Do Glaciers Listen?: Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination (Canadian Studies Series)

Ganges: River to Heaven Documentary focusing on the complex relationships devotees have with the River Ganga: http://www.berkeleymedia.com/product/ganges_river_to_heaven/

The Anthropology and Environment section of the American Anthropological Association: http://ae.americananthro.org/

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