Floodplain memories and landscape change: 'conversations' with watery places
(University of Cologne)
Paper short abstract:
Based on ethnographic fieldwork among flood-affected residents in Gloucestershire, England, this presentation approaches people’s engagement with water and place as conversations with landscape.
Paper long abstract:
In Gloucestershire, England, the flood of 2007 is remembered as an exceptional emergency. However, some floodplain residents, as well as flood markers, documents and photographs speak of a rather similar flood in 1947. People living particularly close to the river also remember high floods in the 1960s and 1990s. What is the relationship between recurrent floods, social memory and landscape? Because floods are rhythmic phenomena, social memory and local knowledge play a crucial role in living on the floodplain. Stories, photographs and flood markers remind floodplain residents of the possibility of a generally dry landscape becoming wet at intervals. No two floods are the same, however, due to transformations in land use, hydrology, climate and flood management regimes. Therefore, improvisation emerges as a central aspect of coping with floods alongside the exact memory of previous floods. As floodplain residents are aware of both the relative autonomy of flooding and the role human activities have in directing and exacerbating flood waters, living on the floodplain can be approached as a set of conversations with a responsive watery landscape. The element of water in the river, on the floodplain, and occasionally on the roads and in people's homes seems particularly apt for tracing these conversations, as it is as malleable as it is powerful and destructive. This presentation explores the metaphor of a listening, remembering and speaking landscape in the analysis of living and coping with floods three places in present Gloucestershire.
Listening landscapes, speaking memories