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Lecture | First Water Talk of the Water and Society Lab

Facts about water: local knowledge, scientific models and societal conflict regarding dams and fracking

Friday 14 December 2018
Free entry, no registration required. The talk is followed by a reception.
Water and Society Lab: Water Talks
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room 5A-29


Dams and hydrofracking for unconventional oil and gas continue to generate conflict around the world, particularly about impacts on rivers and underground aquifers. This water talk is based on anthropological research on these conflicts in Queensland, Australia. A consistent factor in these conflicts revolves around the diverging ways in which ‘facts’ about water emerge among important stakeholders: locally affected communities and scientists.

Oftentimes, these facts are incompatible and cannot be overcome by policy calls for ‘more and better science’. Instead, I draw attention to the need for interdisciplinary approaches which take seriously the social values of water and locally embedded knowledge alongside water knowledge based on engineering and hydrology.

Kim de Rijke

Dr. Kim de Rijke is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. He has undertaken ethnographic research in Australia, the United States and Europe in the fields of environmental anthropology and Indigenous studies. His early research focused on the contested concept of wilderness in Denali National Park, Alaska, and his PhD focused on water, place and community in the context of a dam proposal in Queensland, Australia. His subsequent postdoctoral research project was one of the first worldwide to study the sociocultural dimensions of disputes about rapidly expanding onshore unconventional gas developments and associated extraction technologies such as hydraulic fracturing. This research is ongoing. Since 2003, he has also undertaken applied research for Indigenous native title claims over land and water in both remote and more settled regions of Australia. More recently, he has developed a comparative research project among Native American communities in Arizona and New Mexico in the United States. He also collaborates with scholars in Europe, particularly at Leiden University, to develop interdisciplinary research on water, heritage, the underground, and the various legacies of resource extraction.

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