With a background in Journalism (BA, 2013) and a Master in Social and Cultural Anthropology (2016), I currently work as an external, parttime PhD candidate at the department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the VU. My research, supervised by Ton Salman and Younes Saramifar, revolves around social imaginaries of water, ecological movements, human-nonhuman relations and worldviews in the contexts of Ecuador and the Netherlands.
Incontrovertibly, water is one of the most omnipresent and vital elements that permeates and co-constitutes all ecological and socio-cultural life, and therewith literally our own bodies. All beings on earth, human and nonhuman, are dependent on its flows, circulations, qualities and quantities for survival. This brings me to wonder: what kind of imagination underlies the way we humans treat water, and thus the ecology? How is water imagined socially and lived by culturally? How do those social imaginaries shape water? And vice versa, how does water, in its material self and with its unique characteristics and flows, shape our styles and tropes of thinking about the world? And what is water if we see it apart from everything else?
Western discourse arguably pictures water as a ‘commodity’ that must be tamed and controlled. Ecological movements increasingly suggest that imagining water only in this instrumental way results in practices that are the root causes of ecological crises. They urge for a break with ‘anthropocentrism’ and perennial economic growth.
In this doctoral research, I will dive into water, dip into the realm of the imagination, and plunge into the critiques of ecological movements. Drawing on theory from the political ecology of water, the concept of the hydrosocial cycle, and exploring theorisations beyond the human relation with water, I aim to investigate how ecological movements’ members imagine water and represent their anti-anthropocentric critiques. I will compare the cases of the Netherlands and Ecuador. Ethnographic ‘immersion’ in these two worlds – using conventional, sensory and audio-visual methods – allows for a thorough understanding of (slightly) similar anti-anthropocentric critiques rooted in very different cultural contexts, histories, and common water discourses.
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Social and Cultural Anthropology, Master