Scaling a river
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How can we know a watery space? This contribution to the ‘hydrosocial Anthropocene’ focuses on techniques and methodologies for the ethnographic and historical investigation of riverine societies. Here I examine three ‘moments’ to explore how we can open a river to ethnographic and historical investigation. The first is swimming, and how this practical activity provides an insight into the character of the space and body of the river, its flows and currents. The second is encounter: the river as a meeting point for human community and its nurturing. The final moment is river as a ‘being’; here questions of a river’s legal rights and ownership come to the forefront. This trinity of approaches helps to shift our terracentric notions towards a more liquid appreciation of human life. Underlying this shift is the work of scaling. The activities on and around rivers and seas produce different levels and depths of engagements: some intense and close up, others making use of its immeasurable surfaces for long-distance movement. Scaling then is a composite technique for knowing about human life and its embeddedness in the liquid environment.
Harris , M 2018 , Scaling a river . in F Krause (ed.) , Delta methods : reflections on researching hydrosocial lifeworlds . Kölner Arbeitspapiere zur Ethnologie , vol. 7 , Institut für Ethnologie, Universität zu Köln , Cologne , pp. 11-17 , Research methods for volatile lifewords in the hydrosocial Anthropocene , Köln , Germany , 17/01/18 .conference
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