Talking with the River: How the Whanganui River (New Zealand) flows through juridical pluralistic, cosmopolitical and more-than-human landscapes
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The Whanganui River on the North Island of New Zealand became the world s first river to be acknowledged as a legal person in 2017. While a political organization that includes other-than-human entities is a significant step towards a nature-inclusive political practice, it is the result of struggles over territory, in a colonial context that endured for over hundred years. The legal personhood of the river expresses and legally accepts Māori perceptions of the river as a holistic, indivisible, living entity, and it furthermore resembles a coming together of Māori and British law systems towards a juridical pluralistic formation. However, particular power relations embedded in a colonial context are still visible in contemporary Whanganui and therewith it comes into question who gets to decide over the river about its use and its definition. This issue stretches upon an ontological examination of the narration of human-environmental relations. This thesis will therefore elaborate on the different landscapes that the Whanganui River flows through as an entity that is plural, and how it both shapes and is shaped by its encounters with its human environment and social dynamics.