Seminar: "Canoes on the Brahmaputra: Nature and the Human Imagination Before Steamers" by Prof. Arupjyoti Saikia, IIT Guwahati
Among the many wishes of Anandaram Dhekiyal Phukan, arguably Assam’s mostenlightened voice of the nineteenth century, one famous was his desire to see the day when in rivers of Assam ‘there will be no dug-outs but steam-ships’. Despite Phukan’s ill-will against the boats, it is difficult to imagine the Brahmaputra without those canoes. The human conquest of the Brahmaputra was made possible with the arrival of the dug-outs, the canoes. Boats allowed humans to manoeuvre the river and its floodplains. Canoes establish occasional mastery of humans on the Brahmaputra. Partially fulfilling the wish of Anandaram, navigation on the Brahmaputra took a completely new turn since the middle of the 19th century with the introduction of steamers. Steamers could only partially replace the boats. Boats remained there on the Brahmaputra till today. This talk presents a broad outline of the environmental history of the boats of the Brahmaputra and also the river.
Arupjyoti Saikia is currently a Professor in History at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciencees, IIT Guwahati. He has a Ph.D from the University of Delhi and was a post doctoral fellow at Yale University. His research interests are primarily focuses on the Economic, environmental and political history of modern Assam. His publications include 1) A Century of Protests: Peasant Politics in Assam since 1900, Routledge, Delhi, 2014, 2) Forests and Ecological History of Assam, 1826-2000, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2011, and 3) Jungles, Reserves, Wildlife: A History of Forests in Assam, Wildlife Area Development Trust, Guwahati, 2005. The Turbulent River: An Environmental Biography of the Brahmaputra, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.