Leaving dry land: Water, heritage and imaginary agency

Five months have passed since successfully defending my PhD dissertation titled “Leaving Dry Land: Water, Heritage and Imaginary Agency” at the University of Gothenburg’s Centre for Critical Heritage Studies. When I embarked on my PhD journey, I did not realise that writing a dissertation can easily become a very private and isolated event. Many of the ideas sprouted in my mind when starting the day with a shower, settled while taking a break with a cup of tea and matured while walking the shores of lakes, rivers and seas. Therefore, my foremost gratitude is extended toward water and how it afforded meaningful encounters with other people and other-than-human friends that disrupted the solitude. These others allowed for creating moments to touch edges, taste porosity and feel entanglements.

My dissertation centres around the narratives that water carries across time and space. That is how waters, in my dissertation, become a window into human imaginaries. In my research, I developed a methodology that promotes a sense of planetary care by creating space for collective attention, reflection and imagination, which I embedded in research iterations in Mexico City and Gothenburg. I address a double bind emerging from the cartographic reason that, simultaneously, reinforces exploitative paradigms while it also depends on imagination to draw relational lines in the world. By making space for aquatic agency, collaborative and creative approaches allowed for (re)imagining the past, present and future of urban environments while enabling diverse infrastructures, ecologies and ontologies to emerge. In that sense, I consider these collaborative and creative approaches as relational and worlding practices in which imaginary lines of power are drawn and redrawn.

In close collaboration with a diverse group of co-creators, including artists, designers, writers, and theatre makers, this research has yielded various public outcomes, such as artistic publications and performance lectures. These outcomes have been integrated into the research process as tools for tracing relationships across generations, landscapes, and the many inhabitants of the planet—be they animals, plants, microbes, or bodies of water. The dissertation suggests that, in the face of the climate crisis, human survival hinges on repairing relationships with others and cultivating imaginaries that can foster narratives and practices of solidarity and mutual care. In that sense, the dissertation orients toward practices of re-membering, repairing, remediating or designing planetary regimes of care by making room for paying attention, thinking, feeling and imagining—with others.

By Moniek Driesse
You can download the dissertation here.
Picture of the book by Art Collart
Picture of me in the water by Jacqueline Fuijkschot