HWW Project: Research Methodology and Field Initiatives

The debates around the Anthropocene require new methodologies for urgent engagements with the environment drawn from the arts, humanities, and the social sciences. In this project, we develop eight field initiatives based on existing field projects of faculty and graduate students, who through their research agendas, address questions related to environmental politics. The main objective is to create a platform of collaborative thinking about innovative field methodologies, and to forge comparative analyses of field situations in different contexts. Each initiative will involve brief but intensive (2 week-long) field interventions. These interventions are not meant to replace the standard, data-gathering fieldwork that the researchers are already carrying out, but are designed to complement them with creative interventions. Many field initiatives are needed to study comparatively a variety of political ecological situations in both urban and rural contexts from around the world, in order to develop a rigorously multi-sited approach and collect a wealth of responses to global discourses on climate change and environmental crisis. Conventional projects focused on a single site or a region often fail to address the complexity of the local and are insufficient to demonstrate the variety of local practices that feed into and impact global discourses. We are proposing eight initiatives (see Appendix I for project abstracts):

(1) Place, Heritage and Resistance in the Wakhan Corridor, Pakistan, investigates architectural heritage in relation to national and global interventions to place.

(2) Working in and through Climate Change: Agricultural Landscapes in Coamiles, Nayarit, Mexico, explores the climate-change discourse among Mexican farmers.

(3) The Third Bridge and Northern Forests of Istanbul: A Case of Ecological Resistance, investigates creative responses to an infrastructure project in metropolitan Turkey.

(4) Cochabamba Water, investigates climate change as state discourse and the water crisis among the agriculturalists facing severe droughts In Bolivia.

(5) Cultivating Chicago: Gardens as Ecological Infrastructures, engages with gardeners who create meaningful spaces through growing, and presents gardens as alternative infrastructures.

(6) Knowledge Production and Practice in Industrial Row Crop Farming, Northern Illinois explores knowledge systems of row crop farming as integral to broader scale politics and markets.

(7) Ecology, Archaeological Heritage, and Disposable Landscapes at a Coal-fired Power Plant in West Central Turkey, addresses the state discourse of disposable landscapes and local resistance.

(8) Social and Environmental Impact of Hydropower Dams and Large-scale Industrial Tree Plantations in in northeastern Cambodia addresses the effects of global narratives of climate change on local environmental politics.

Field initiatives will share one or more of the following methods, in addition to the conventional and project-specific field methodologies such as ethnographic interviews, participant observation and archival work that are already being conducted. Data gathered from the latter will be used as ground work for the proposed field initiatives.

  1. Public engagement: will create platforms of dialogue with the local communities and activists, in the form of community forums, collective mapping, landscape walks, collaborative workshops.
  2. Creative practice: projects will have at least one artist on the team and where relevant, initiate an arts intervention in the form of an exhibition, site-specific performance or installation.
  3. Audio-visual documentation of the project for the purposes of the exhibition and the publications that will take place as the final outcome of the project.

The field initiatives will have overlapping participants, whose experiences will strengthen the comparative aspect of the project. Following fieldwork, participants will convene in a series of workshops to compare results and re-evaluate methodologies. Final comparative analysis will be carried out through the framework of three analytical lenses outlined below.