RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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58 Wet Geographies II Water in the Anthropocene: creative approaches to understanding and re-thinking human-water relationships (Alternative Knowledge) (1)
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Liz Roberts (University of the West of England, UK)
Katherine Jones (University of the West of England, UK)
Chair(s) Katherine Jones (University of the West of England, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 02 September 2015, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Forum - Seminar Room 2
Session abstract Water resource depletion, pollution, extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic climate change and water conflicts are some of the most urgent issues facing global society. These challenges often seem technical, even abstract, and couched in policy/scientific language which create distance between humans and water as a ‘natural’ resource and set of processes and flows. However, humans also have profoundly intimate relationships with water, for example at a bodily level, through sensuous and recreational encounters and through ‘watery senses of place’ (Anderson and Peters, 2014; Jones, 2014; McEwen et al., 2014). Water, in differing forms, ‘carries’ imaginative, discursive and symbolic roles in all human lives. Politically and culturally ‘water is everywhere’ (Linton, 2010). Our connections with water have profound implications for how we use, misuse, maintain, preserve and conserve water, and how through water we affect other lives ­ human and non-human. Recent research therefore looks to new and creative methods to approach multiple water-related challenges in the Anthropocene (Whatmore, 2013).

This session aims to bring together water scholars and practitioners to explore methods for creatively engaging with water issues and human-water relations. Presentations may include but are not limited to:
- creative ways of engaging with publics and agencies/organisations
alternative knowledges and co-production
- creative approaches to presentation (of knowledge/research, e.g. river walks, exhibitions)
- uses of cultural resources (text, image, archive) and methods (stories, encounters, art-science collaboration, digital stories) to think about human-water relations
- materialities of water
- water ecologies
- inter/transdisciplinary approaches to water issues
Linked Sessions Wet Geographies I: Under the Sea: Geographies of the Deep
Wet Geographies II: Water in the Anthropocene: creative approaches to understanding and re-thinking human-water relationships (Discourses and engagement) (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Lived-experience: Developing the sailor-citizen
Mike Brown (University of Waikato, New Zealand)
The sea continues to be vital and integral to the workings of contemporary society (Peters, 2010). Recent scholarly interests in human-sea relationships (Anderson & Peters, 2014; Brown & Humberstone, 2015b; Mack, 2011) have explored multiple ways to understand the complexities inherent in encounters with the sea. Experiences with the sea have the potential to shape personal and collective identities (Brown & Humberstone, 2015a). Articulating embodied, intimate and sensuous encounters with the sea has the potential to disrupt discourses of the sea as ‘other’ and to rethink human and non-human relationships.This presentation draws on auto-ethnography and video to convey elements of the author’s lived experiences during a recent ocean voyage. A particular focus is on the interrelationship between embodiment, enskilment, and identity. Following Nichols’s (2014) assertion that “Immersion moves us from disinterested appreciation to active participation” (p. 251) I reflexively explore the implications of ‘being’ a sailor-citizen committed to an enduring relationship with ‘my’ sea (‘my’ in the sense of a reciprocal relationship rather than as a form of ownership). The centrality of lived experiences, as the basis of an intimate relationship, provides an alternative to technical and abstract discourses that sustain distance between humans and the sea.
Practices of immersion
John Hartley (Falmouth University, UK)
Artist/researcher John Hartley and Curator Ben Eastop will present examples - practices of immersion - that deploy creative methods of encounter and different modes of contemplation.
Estuary was a research expedition; a 5-day barge trip from Tower Bridge to the North Sea that brought together a writer, artist, musician, archaeologist, filmmaker and designer. Participants considered their own and others' response to an environment on the cusp of change. Elsewhere, in Hartley's sea swimming practice, lo-fi filming equipment is used to glimpse waves of technological investment and redundancy, alongside waves of seawater.
Sounding water: creative approaches to fluvial geographies
Robert St. John (University of Glasgow, UK)
Creative and experimental geography research is currently gathering pace and popularity, with work adding new perspectives and methodologies to an expanding field. In particular, sonic geographies – where sound is used as an exploratory, experiential or analytical tool for research – are drawing increased focus.

As yet, there has been little geographical work on understanding human-water relationships through sound. Using examples of my work on two art-science projects – Water of Life (2013), on water networks in Edinburgh; and Surface Tension (2015) on water pollution in the River Lea, London – I will outline the potential of creative, and inherently geographical, techniques drawn from sound art as methods for untangling and potentially creatively remaking our relationships with water. These include sonification, the creation of sound from datasets; convolution reverb, the mapping of the reverb of a space; and hydrophone, contact and binaural microphone recording techniques.

I will present these techniques as offering untapped creative potential for geographers seeking to understand and rethink human interconnectedness with water networks by recording and remaking traces of these ‘carrying streams’ of information and abstraction.
Giving "voice" to ageing women in the anthropocene: understanding tacit water needs of perimenopausal women
Amita Bhakta (Loughborough University, UK)
Julie Fisher (Loughborough University, UK)
Brian Reed (Loughborough University, UK)
The Anthropocene marks a time in which with rapid global urbanisation, we face a multitude of environmental challenges. Living in cities means that people’s access to environmental resources like water and waste disposal becomes indirect, relying on the built environment rather than having a direct relationship with the natural environment. Concurrently, the global population continues to age, and the proportion of women making the transition to menopause, in a stage called the perimenopause, is on the rise. The majority of these women will live in low income countries by 2030. However, little has been recorded in literature about the various water needs of perimenopausal women. These private, individual requirements may or may not be met by public, generic water and sanitation services. This paper highlights how current doctoral research has explored the ways in which the various unidentified water needs of women, as they progress through the perimenopause, can be understood through alternative knowledge, known as tacit knowledge. A phenomenological review approach is presented as a creative method to capture this tacit knowledge, in order to understand the different relationship to water of perimenopausal women in dealing with the fluidities and ‘leakiness’ of their bodily changes. It brings together the ‘voices’ of perimenopausal women, a ‘‘concealed’ cohort of the population, as they portray their own realities of their uses of water, during a time of bodily change.
Underground water: techno-political ecology in "unauthorised" Delhi
Matt Birkinshaw (Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan)
Like many of India's fastest growing cities, groundwater use in per-urban, unplanned areas of Delhi is extensive and weakly regulated. 'Unauthorised' neighborhoods rely on groundwater and North Indian acquifers are being depleted at some of the fastest rates in the world (Shah 2013). Public water supply in these areas remains an area of blurred mandates, impressionistic diagnostics and ad hoc inadequate provision, often compounded by rent-seeking and political calculation. The minimal service through tubewells and tankers allows a greater discretionary role for elected representatives, while deferring the cost of providing treated 'piped' water and passing it to consumers forced to rely on expensive 'informal' supply through tankers, tubewell networks, and 'local' bottled water. This 'underground political ecology' of water, both sub-soil and illicit, is under-explored in research to date (Bebbington 2012, Rohilla 2012, Maria 2009, Narain 2011a). While water infrastructures here are in constant process of modification, the main change residents have seen over the last 30 years is an increasing decline in the quantity and quality of water available. I will draw on 16 months' field research with residents, private suppliers and government agencies to analyse the techno-politics structuring human-water relationships in this complex and changing environment.