Environmental Infrastructures: Comparative Ethnographic Study on Nature, Technology and Environmental Change

Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research

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Members Biography

(1) Anders Blok

Anders Blok is Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen. His research focuses on the knowledge politics of global environmental change, and he is currently comparing urban climate change engagements in Northern Europe, India, and Japan. He has published widely in journals of social theory, science studies, and environmental politics, and is the author (with Torben Elgaard Jensen) of Bruno Latour: Hybrid Thoughts in a Hybrid World (Routledge, 2011).

Individual Project

In the wake of the ecological challenges of climate change, urban infrastructures (of energy, waste, housing, water) in larger-scales cities around the world are nowadays targeted as objects of 'sustainable' re-design by various urban policy, expert and civic communities. Viewing this as a case of 'environmentalizing' existing material infrastructures, this project aims to study and compare the processes whereby new urban infrastructural eco-standards, particularly as pertaining to the built environment, are produced, circulated, implemented and contested, across diverse Northern European and East Asian urban contexts.

(2) Brit Winthereik

Brit Ross Winthereik is Associate Professor and Head of the faculty group Technologies in Practice (TiP) at the IT University of Copenhagen. As an ethnographer of science and technology, her main areas of interest are information infrastructures, accountability practices in distributed work settings, and methodological and analytical issues related to the study of technological systems for knowledge sharing and management. Recently, she has begun pursuing these interests in relation to renewable and decentralized energy production and consumption. Brit has published widely on relations between people and information technology from a constructivist perspective. Her forthcoming book, Monitoring Movements in Development Aid: Recursive Partnerships and Infrastructures with Casper Bruun Jensen (MIT Press, 2013), is a multi-sited ethnographic study of monitoring practices in development aid. The book’s main contribution is to show how monitoring development aid is not simply a matter of designing and implementing technology but entails forging new platforms for action that are simultaneously imaginative and practical, conceptual and technical. Brit is a co-founder of the Danish Association for Science and Technology Studies (DASTS) and serves on the editorial team of the journal Science and Technology Studies. See also http://itu.dk/tip/?p=421.

(3) Casper Bruun Jensen

Casper Bruun Jensen is Associate Professor at the Technologies in Practice group of the IT University of Copenhagen. He has published widely in STS and social and cultural theory. With Kjetil Rodje he is the editor of Deleuzian Intersections: Science, Technology and Anthropology (Berghahn, 2009) and the author of Ontologies for Developing Things: Making Health Care Futures Through Technology (Sense, 2010) and Monitoring Movements in Development Aid: Recursive Partnerships and Infrastructures (MIT Press, 2013) with Brit R

Individual Project

Emergent Hydrological Infrastructures: Knowledges, Contexts and Politics


It is by now generally recognized that the continued sustainability of modern societies, and the economic and social well-being of their citizens, is tightly interconnected with their ability to respond innovatively to a range of environmental issues. Within sociology and anthropology, researchers have increasingly come to recognize that a focus on socio-economical issues, narrowly conceived, inhibits analysis of the ways in which social processes and outcomes are interrelated with changes in technological infrastructure and natural environments. The hydrological infrastructures project aims to address the empirical and analytical challenges attending this realization.


The present project analyzes emergent hydrological infrastructures, their knowledge making practices, and their policy and social implications.

Research foci and questions

  1. Knowledge Making Practices
    How do hydrological researchers construct the weather-river system as an object of environmental knowledge? What knowledge making practices inform their modeling efforts and how does this shape the factors that are taken into account in the models? How do hydrologists integrate knowledge of social and natural factors in their modeling?
  2. Modeling in Social Context
    How are reliable conceptual and practical relations formed between climate models and the complex socio-natural reality they aim to model? How are local social problems and issues relating to the threat of flooding embedded in the modeling? How are these models put to practical use and integrated with already existing infrastructures related to environmental problems?
  3. Politics of Environmental Infrastructures
    What is the relation between science and politics in these environmental infrastructures? How do social, economic or political interests help shape questions and agendas of hydrological research? In reverse, how are the results of hydrological modeling fed back into broader social and political discussions about environmental threats, and into concrete activities meant to mitigate these problems?
  4. Conceptualizing Sustainable Environmental Infrastructures
    How can the combined network of environmental research, social and natural environments and legal, political and economical contexts be conceptualized as an emergent environmental infrastructure? What does it take for hydrological infrastructures to become socially and ecologically sustainable?

In conjunction, these four questions and their sub-questions undergird the aim of the project: to describe and theorize the multiple forms of interaction through which hydrology participates in the construction and reshaping of environmental infrastructures.

(4) Jakkrit Sangkhamanee

Jakkrit Sangkhamanee is an anthropologist at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. His researches cover a wide range of issues such as natural resource conflicts, river basin development, social history of environmental infrastructure, and ecological knowledge on Mekong waters. His doctoral research deals with the politics and dynamics of knowledge production on water management in northeastern Thailand. He is now Thailand team leader, conducting a research project which aims at understanding and improving the ways in which decisions are made with respect to hydropower location, coordination, operation and development in the Mekong river basin.

(5) Keiichi Ohmura

Keiichi Omura is Associate Professor of the Graduate School of Language and Culture at Osaka University. As an arctic anthropologist, his main areas of interest are IQ (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge), Inuit Art, the subsistence activities of the Inuit, and methodological and analytical issues related to the study of the process of knowledge sharing and management. Recently, he has begun pursuing these interests in relation to the IQ issues in Nunavut, namely, how to realize a governance system in which the modern way of governance and the Inuit way of governance complement each other. Omura has published widely on Inuit knowledge, the subsistence system of the Inuit, Inuit art, and relations between Inuit societies and global networks from a relationalist perspective. His forthcoming book, Navigating in Arctic: Indigenous Knowledge in Everyday Life of Canadian Inuit (tentative title) (Osaka University Press, 2013, in Japanese), is an ethnographic study of Inuit Knowledge. The book’s main contribution is to develop a new methodology for analyzing indigenous knowledge from the perspective of practice theory and to show the creativity of daily practices.

(6) Keiichiro Matsumura

Keiichiro Matsumura is Associate Professor of the College of Sociology at Rikkyo University, Tokyo. From an economic anthropologist’s point of view, he has conducted fieldwork in rural Ethiopia since 1998, focusing on the relationships between gift-giving and selling-buying among the coffee-growing farmers. Based on ethnographic research and his Ph.D. thesis, he has published a book, The Anthropology of Possession and Distribution: A Dynamics with Regard to the Land and Wealth in an Ethiopian Rural village (Sekai-Shiso-Sha, 2008, in Japanese). Recently, he has begun a new research project on the global context of gift-giving of food crop, focusing here on international food aid in Ethiopia. In 2005 an extensive food aid project, Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), was launched with strong support from several international donors such as World Bank, USAID and NGOs and with the aim of enhancing food security in rural Ethiopia. He analyzes how international and national monitoring practices and recognition of environmental and food security situations contribute to the emergence of a new reality among local communities.

(7) Laura Watts

(8) Ishii Miho

Miho Ishii is an Associate Professor at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University. She specializes in Cultural Anthropology, African and South Asian Area Studies. Major works include: Frontier of Spirits: Ethnography of “Supernatural Phenomena” among Immigrants Society in Southern Ghana (Sekaishisosha, 2007, in Japanese); Anthropology of Religion (ed., Shumpusha, 2010, in Japanese); “From Wombs to Farmland: The Transformation of Suman Shrines in Southern Ghana,” Journal of Religion in Africa 35-3 (2005); “From Passion to Compassion: Healing Rituals and Gender in an Independent Church in Southern Ghana,” Japanese Review of Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 9 (2008), “Acting with things: self-poiesis, actuality, and contingency in the formation of divine worlds,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2-2 (2012). She is currently conducting fieldwork on the interrelation between new mega-industry, ecological movements, and the spirit worship called buutaaraadane (buuta worship) in Mangalore taluk, Karnataka State, India.

(9) Moe Nakazora

Moe Nakazora is a Research Fellow of the Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS), as well as being affiliated to the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University. Her main fields of interest are the anthropology of science, technology, and medicine, sociology of law, and South Asian area studies (particularly India). Her research specifically focuses on “bioprospecting” as the site of biochemical science encountering indigenous knowledge, postcolonial engagements with intellectual property and the politics of innovation and appropriation. Based on a long-term field research in India, she has recently pursed these topics through examining the contemporary Indian “state” actors’ attempt to database and re-archive “valuable” traditional medicine, paying attention to the interaction and translation among different knowledge traditions that occurred in the process. Among her publications are “An Anthropological Approach to the Making of Property-owning Subjects: From Rights to Relations,” Bunkajinruigaku 74-1, 2009, in Japanese, “When Knowledge Becomes Property of Someone: An Anthropological Approach to Indigenous Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights,” Choiki Bunkakagaku 14, 2009, in Japanese, and “The Scientists Adopting Postcolonialism : the Databasing Project of Medicinal Plants in Uttarakhand, India,” Shakaijinruigaku Nenpoh 38 , 2012, in Japanese.

(10) Moeko Saito

Moeko Saito-Jensen holds a bachelor’s degree of economics from Keio University in Japan, a master’s degree of environmental economics and policy from Duke University in the US and a Ph.D. degree of forest governance and policy from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. For her Ph.D. research, she analyzed intended and unintended consequences of community based natural resource management projects based on a case study of the World Bank funded community forestry project in India. She has also worked at various organizations including the World Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and Swiss Intercooperation. At present, she is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Copenhagen. Her current research focuses upon social dimensions of global environmental governance based on a case study of REDD+ initiatives (a climate change mitigation initiative within the forestry sector) in Nepal and Indonesia.
In her Environment Infrastructures project, entitled “searching for credible carbon in forests”, she has been analyzing the use of infrastructures in constituting environmental knowledge that are claimed to be scientifically credible. Drawing on the case of a REDD + initiative in Nepal, she has been studying (1) the types of new environmental infrastructures (EIs) a global environmental initiative introduces and (2) how these EIs have been used in constituting particular knowledge claims about the environment.

(11) Atsuro Morita

Atsuro Morita is Associate Professor of anthropology at Osaka University. As an anthropologist of science and technology, he has been working on the development of local engineering practice and technology transfer in Thailand and published a book entitled Engineering in the Wild (Sekai-shisho sha, 2012, in Japanese). His English publication includes ‘Traveling Engineers, Machines and Comparisons: Intersecting Imaginations and Journeys in the Thai Local Engineering Industry’. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 7-2, 2013, and ‘The Ethnographic Machine: Experimenting with Context and Comparison in Strathernian Ethnography’, Science, Technology and Human Values, forthcoming.

Individual Project

Irrigation engineering and water resource management has been one of the central concerns in the state sponsored development of modern science and technology in Thailand. At the same time, hydrological observation in Thailand has been deeply embedded in the international endeavor to build global infrastructure for water circulation, which is tightly linked to the successful infrastructure of climate science and its general circulation models. This project takes up the recent development of water management for flood controlling in the Chao Phraya River basin and focuses on the intersection among irrigation operation systems, global hydrological observation infrastructures and farmers’ practice.

(12) Osamu Nakagawa

Osamu Nakagawa is currently Associate Professor at the College of Intercultural Communication at Rikkyo University, Toyko. His areas of research include economic anthropology, globalization studies, and French studies. Within the Environmental Infrastructures project, he is conducting research on the institutionalization of organic farming in France.

(13) Sho Morishita

Sho Morishita is a doctoral student of anthropology. Currently, he is researching the dynamics of socio-natural relations in scientific activities, working in the field at a laboratory of geophysics in Kyoto University. In particular, he is interested in the "multi-technological" characteristic of scientists’ activities: their discipline, geodesy, has a number of distinctive technologies designed to facilitate understanding of geodynamics though the society is quite small. Technologies such as GPS and gravimeter strongly characterize perceptual-praxical modalities. By comparing each technology, he attempts to understand how environmental infrastructures are constructed and how they change the ontological structures.

(14)Shuhei Kimura

Shuhei Kimura is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan. He received a Ph.D. degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Tokyo in 2008, based on long-term field research on disaster preparedness in Istanbul, Turkey. Among his publications are Public Anthropology of Earthquake (Sekaishisousha, 2013, in Japanese) Anthropology as Reality Critique (Sekaishisousha, co-authored, edited by Naoki Kasuga 2011, in Japanese), Reassembling the Humanosphere (Kyoto University Press, coeditor with Yoko Hayami and Makoto Nishi, 2012, in Japanese), "Lessons from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake: The public use of anthropological knowledge", Asian Anthropology 11 (2012). Now, he is conducting field research on temporary life/temporality in life in the areas devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

(15) Tak Uesugi

Tak Uesugi received his doctorate in anthropology at McGill University, Canada. His dissertation work looked at the ‘side-effects’ of conjuring up risk knowledge about Agent Orange in A Luoi Valley of Central Vietnam. Recently he has shifted his research interest toward looking at the development of geothermal power plants as one of the side-effects of Fukushima’s nuclear disaster. In particular, he is looking at the negotiation of rights to develop underground hot spring resources and the risk of their alteration or depletion between the developers and onsen (hot spring bath) industry.