Chilton Lee Tippin

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Colorado, Boulder, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10634

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Tippin, Chilton (Colorado, Boulder, U. of) "Defending Multiple Waters: River-Based Resistances and Toxic Transfusions in the Late-Industrial Watershed of the Rio Grande/Bravo"

How do people involved in water struggles mobilize the concept of “defending water” to effect radical transformations in people-river relations while simultaneously bearing the suppressive burdens of late-industrial contamination? My research investigates this question in the Rio Grande/Bravo watershed, where rivers and the people who use them, worship them, protect them, and abuse them are violently interpenetrated by global capitalism’s metabolic churn. I suggest this seemingly straightforward statement—“defending water”—obscures a complex ontological politics that hinges on fundamental assumptions about what water is. This project examines two water disputes that share a hydrological connection in the Rio Grande/Bravo. In New Mexico, organizers from varied walks of life defend “community waters” against the radioactive legacy wastes of the Manhattan Project. In the Rio Conchos Valley, environmental activists vie against farmers and powerful agribusiness in a struggle that turns on water’s fundamental use and meaning. In both cases, actors defending water incorporate that which appears in the river. The plastics, pesticides, and plutonium manifest as sources of both anxiety and creative mobilizing. This project thus investigates how people so thoroughly transfused with their toxified waterways “defend water” in struggles that could radically remake what that water, fundamentally, is.