Indigenous water ontologies, hydro-development and the human/more-than-human right to water: A call for critical engagement with plurilegal water realities Articles uri icon

publication date

  • June 2021

start page

  • 1660


  • 12


  • 13

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2073-4441


  • Water conflicts across the world are bringing to the fore fundamental challenges to the anthropocentric boundaries of the human rights paradigm. Engaging with the multi-layered legal ethnographic setting of the Xalalá dam project in Maya Q¿eqchi¿ territory in Guatemala, I will critically and empirically unpack not only the anthropocentric boundaries of the hegemonic human rights paradigm, but also the ontological differences between indigenous and Euro-Western legal conceptualizations of human-water-life. I argue that it is necessary to pave the way for urgent rethinking of the human right to water and, more broadly, human rights beyond the modern divide of nature-culture. International law and human rights scholars should therefore not be afraid of plurilegal water realities and should start engaging with these ontologically different concepts and practices. Embarking on a bottom-up co-theorizing about human and beyond-the-human water rights will be imperative to avoid recolonization of indigenous knowledges-ontologies by non-indigenous scholarships and public policy.


  • Anthropology
  • Environment


  • legal ethnography; more-than-human; rivers; guatemala; indigenous maya q'eqchi'