skip to content

Workshop IV: Stories that matter: exploring (re)presentation and communication of hydrosocial research

25 - 27 September 2019


A workshop accompanied by a reading, performances, an exhibition opening and a film screening

25 - 27 September 2019


The DELTA project is running its fourth workshop in Cologne end of September. This time we will focus on ways of formulating and representing the results of scientific research to wider, non-academic audiences.

Organised by the DELTA Project of the University of Cologne in cooperation with the Global South Studies Center (GSSC), Cultures and Societies in Transition (CA IV), Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the Cologne Summer School of Interdisciplinary Anthropology.

Formulating the results of scientific research in ways accessible to wider, non-academic audiences is a recurrent challenge for researchers. Publics beyond the university deserve to learn what new insights their tax money has helped to generate. Academics are often keen to share the outcomes of their intensive work with more than a few peers specialized in their field. And a growing number of researchers see their role as active participants of civil society in addition to their academic work. This is particularly the case for research that bears on current societal and political issues, including ways of confronting ongoing environmental, hydrological and climatic changes.

This workshop explores ways of communicating hydrosocial research in anthropology and related disciplines. By hydrosocial, we mean the fields of relations that are simultaneously social and hydrological, which includes questions of drinking water access and wastewater disposal, irrigation and drainage, flood risk and drought, sea-level rise, coastal erosion and salinization, snow reliability and well drilling, as well as a host of other spheres where society and water are shaped by each other. These spheres have always been characterized by fluctuations and surprises, but are currently increasingly volatile in the times of the Anthropocene.

Current public and media accounts of hydrosocial issues tend to focus on a limited number of representations, most of them originating in the abstractions of the natural sciences or journalistic disaster narratives. They include the images of flooded cities, the maps indicating prognoses of sea level rise, the stories of climate refugees, and the graphs of declining reservoir levels. But they systematically fail to convey the lived experiences, strategies, hopes, resiliences and challenges of people around the world that do not fit these narratives and aggregations. These latter stories, however, are precisely what anthropological and related research has been instrumental in revealing through their thick description of different people’s lifeworlds. And upholding the multiplicity and the ‘otherwise’ in particular people’s ways of experiencing and confronting global challenges remains a mainstay in their academic project.   

The workshop will showcase, critically discuss and try out different styles, media and formats of representing and disseminating such alternative hydrosocial insights. These will include exhibitions, film, op-ed writing, performance, literature, or photography. We will focus on ‘stories that matter’ in the sense of experience-near accounts that can inform larger-scale debates, but also in the sense of illustrating how social and material aspects of hydrosocial transformations must be considered together, rather than delegating some dimensions to anthropologists and others to hydrologists. Our format will combine public events (reading, performance, exhibition, film screening) with presentations and panel discussions that elaborate and reflect on these and other forms, media and events.


Program and Participant List

Wednesday 25.9.19

AnthropoScenes: Crossing Boundaries of Artistic and Scientific Storytelling
Jointly organized with the Cologne Summer School of Interdisciplinary Anthropology (CSIA)

19:00   Anna Badkhen           Fisherman's Blues (Reading), moderated by Mithu Sanyal

            Anastasia Guevel      Between Dog and Wolf (Performance)

            Marina Guzzo            IARA - Dance for a Multitude of Fishes (Performance

            Sina Seifee                Critical Bestiaries (Installation/Performance Lecture)



Thursday 26.9.19

Publicizing and Politicizing Anthropology

09:00  Opening Address

09:15  Kirsten Hastrup

           Waterworlds: Looking Back – Thinking Ahead

           Chair: Franz Krause

10:00  Werner Krauss

           Writing Climate Change

           Chair: Michael Bollig

10:45  Coffee Break

11:00  Franz Krause

           Representing a Representing World: Observations from Arctic Hunter-Gatherers on Social Media

           Chair: Manon Diederich

11:45  Lunch

13:30  Input and Open Roundtable: Journalism and Anthropology

           Simon Jäggi and Mirjam Kid

           Chair: Julian Schmischke

15:00  Coffee Break

15:15  Open Atelier: An Anthropology for the Future

16:30  Transfer to Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum and Dinner

18:30   Opening Intervention/Exhibition 'Delta Welten' (Delta Worlds)


Friday 27.9.19

Sensualizing Anthropology

09:00  Review and Outlook

09:15  Paul Stoller

            Slow Anthropology in a Fast World

            Followed by a Conversation with Anna Badkhen

            Chair: Sandro Simon

10:30  Coffee Break

10:45  Darcy Alexandra

           Mattering Stories

           Chair: Sandro Simon

11:30  Artist Talk: Theater and Anthropology

           Nuran David Calis

           Chair: Bernard Müller

12:15  Lunch

13:30  Bernard Müller

          The crisis of Anthropology in a Time of Climate Change, or, the Field/Terrain as Epistemic Swamp and Creative Constraint

           Chair: Benoit Ivars

14:15  Michel Massmünster

           Enthralled by the Night: Performing Nocturnal Research

           Chair: Nora Horisberger

15:00  Coffee Break

15:15  Teresa Cremer, Nora Horisberger, Benoit Ivars, Sandro Simon and Marie-Helen Scheid

           We say 'Delta', you see what? On making the exhibition/intervention 'Delta Welten'

            Chair: Oliver Lueb

16:00  Final Plenum

17:30  Transfer to Touristarama and Dinner

20:00  Film Screening and Q&A with Izabella Faya

  5 Vezes Chico – O Velho e sua Gente (5 Times Chico – The São Francisco River and his People) (Brazil 2015, 90min)


Organized by the DELTA Team, in cooperation with and the support of:

Katharina Diederichs (PhD Student and Graduate Research Assistant, GSSC, University of Cologne)

Luzia Heinzelmann (Research Assistant, GSSC, University of Cologne)

Christoph Lange (CSIA, PhD Student and Assistant Researcher, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Julian Pieper (CSIA, Research Assistant, a.r.t.e.s Graduate School, University of Cologne)


Presenters and Discussants

Darcy Alexandra (Assistant Researcher and Lecturer, Anthropology Department, University of Berne) 

Anna Badkhen (Writer, Former War Correspondent)

Nuran David Calis (Theater Director)

Teresa Cremer (Research Assistant DELTA Project, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Izabella Faya (Film Producer and Screenwriter)

Kirsten Hastrup (Professor Emeritus, Anthropology Department, University of Copenhagen)

Nora Horisberger (PhD Student DELTA Project, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Benoit Ivars (PhD Student DELTA Project, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Simon Jäggi (Independent Journalist and Reporter)

Mirjam Kid (Journalist Deutschlandfunk, Anthropologist)

Franz Krause (Principal Investigator DELTA Project, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Werner Krauss (Senior Researcher, artec Centre for Sustainability, University of Bremen)

Michel Massmünster (Assistant Researcher and Lecturer, Cultural Anthropology Department, University of Basel)

Bernard Müller (Independent Researcher and Dramaturg, Member of IRIS, EHESS Paris)

Marie-Helen Scheid (Exhibition Designer)

Sandro Simon (PhD Student DELTA Project, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Paul Stoller (Professor, Anthropology Department, West Chester University)

Writers and Performers

Anna Badkhen

Anastasia Guevel

Marina Guzzo

Sina Seifee

Funders and Partners

Emmy-Noether Program Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG),

Global South Studies Centre (GSSC),

Cultures and Societies in Transormation (CA IV),

Fritz-Thyssen Stiftung,

Stadt Köln und Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum,

University of Cologne, Cologne,

Summer School of Interdisciplinary Anthropology (CSIA)

Chairs and Moderators

Michael Bollig (Professor, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Manon Diederich (PhD Student, a.r.t.e.s Graduate School, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

Oliver Lueb (Deputy Director, Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum Cologne)

Bernard Müller (Independent Researcher and Dramaturg, Member of EHESS Paris)

Mithu Sanyal (Cultural Scientist, Journalist, Writer)

Julian Schmischke (PhD Student, a.r.t.e.s Graduate School, Anthropology Department, University of Cologne)

and the DELTA Team