Scaling a river

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDelta methods
Subtitle of host publicationreflections on researching hydrosocial lifeworlds
EditorsFranz Krause
Place of PublicationCologne
PublisherInstitut für Ethnologie, Universität zu Köln
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventResearch methods for volatile lifewords in the hydrosocial Anthropocene - Tagungs- und Gästehaus St Georg, Köln, Germany
Duration: 17 Jan 201819 Jan 2018

Publication series

NameKölner Arbeitspapiere zur Ethnologie
PublisherInstitut für Ethnologie, Universität zu Köln
ISSN (Print)1864-7766


ConferenceResearch methods for volatile lifewords in the hydrosocial Anthropocene
Internet address


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