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Lines in the Water

Lines in the Water: Nature and Culture at Lake Titicaca

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 314
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  • Book Info
    Lines in the Water
    Book Description:

    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 Watertells 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93589-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE: Lakes
    (pp. xi-xxviii)
  5. 1 Not Forgetting
    (pp. 1-16)

    I was in a great hurry during my last weeks in Puno, the Peruvian city on the shores of Lake Titicaca, even though there were few loose ends to my research project on the fishermen of the lake. The study of the markets was complete. So was my collaborative work with IMARPE, a Peruvian government agency that specializes in aquatic resources. We had revised a census of the fishermen and conducted a detailed survey of their fishing trips. Moreover, thanks to my interviews and visits to archives, I had compiled the documents that I needed to trace the history of...

  6. 2 Mountains
    (pp. 17-44)

    Soon after I moved into my apartment in Puno in 1979, I put maps of the altiplano on the wall of the larger of the two rooms. They gave it the appearance of an office or a study, thus reassuring me, when I doubted that my research was advancing very well, that I really was a serious anthropologist. Even in less anxious moments I drew some comfort from them, since they linked me to prior generations of field researchers who also had used maps as decorations. I ended up installing a large, disparate collection, justifying each addition by the fact...

  7. 3 Names
    (pp. 45-68)

    In its most basic outline, the story that I want to tell about Lake Titicaca is a simple one. If I were to reduce it to a paragraph, it would run like this: Through the first half of the twentieth century, fishermen set out from shore in small balsas made of reeds. Sticking close to land, they used many kinds of traditional gear designed to work in shallow waters. Each village managed its own onshore fishing grounds through a system of customary laws. There was very little traffic in the open waters of the lake. Around the middle of the...

  8. 4 Work
    (pp. 69-116)

    I arrived in Peru in 1979 with a plan for a research project and with the knowledge that I would change this plan. The plan was laid out in a grant proposal that I had written to obtain funding from the National Science Foundation. It described the procedures that I would use to answer a question of interest to anthropologists and ecologists: what factors influence the amount of fish caught in Lake Titicaca? I knew that I would not follow every step I had outlined. Fieldwork always presents anthropologists with surprises that force them to drop some components of their...

  9. 5 Fish
    (pp. 117-172)

    A few miles east of the city of Puno is the Isla Foroba. Despite its name, it is a peninsula at most times. Only when the lake is unusually high does it become an island, separated from the shore by a hundred meters of water. On this small piece of land is a two-story building with storerooms and offices for the Titicaca National Reserve, a government-run protected area. This building also houses a small museum whose two rooms contain a large map and a collection of five or six stuffed birds, as well as a wheelbarrow and some shovels that...

  10. 6 Reeds
    (pp. 173-208)

    More than 150 villages line the shores of Lake Titicaca. No two have identical landscapes. Much as a quick look is sufficient to recognize the face of a friend whom one meets unexpectedly when walking down a street in a strange town, so too a traveler around the lake needs only a single glimpse to recognize a familiar village that comes suddenly into view when riding in a boat on a new route around an island or when crossing the crest of a ridge for the first time. It is enough to see the clusters of adobe houses, set in...

  11. 7 Paths
    (pp. 209-240)

    It was not on the first or second look through my photographs, but only much later, that I noticed how frequently paths and roads appeared in them. My position as an outsider and my work with the catch surveys led me to travel more than many people do in the altiplano, but the paths and roads, I realized, form an integral part of the landscape for the villagers as well as for a foreign anthropologist. I think of the women who wrap up in a cloth the fish caught by their husbands or sons or brothers, place the bundle on...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 241-276)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 277-278)
  14. Index
    (pp. 279-287)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 288-289)