19 Sep 2023 11:00

Pania Mu and Eli Elinoff - Cityscapes & Water Tales: A Journey from Suzhou to Bangkok

Ca' Bottacin, Dorsoduro 3911 Venice Main Hall (1 Floor) and online

The Waterscapes series continues with a double feature on September 19 at Ca' Bottacin | 11 AM - 1 PM

"Cityscapes & Water Tales: A Journey from Suzhou to Bangkok"

Make the Water Flow: Hydraulic Mappings in the 17th-19th Centuries Suzhou
Pania Yanjie Mu 
Heidelberg University

Abstract: Suzhou is recognized as a world-historic site for its distinctive urban form of canal grid which matured in the 13th century. Urban waterways began to diminish as the society’s productive mode gradually shifted from agriculture to industry during the 17-19th Centuries. Local officials endeavoured to preserve the hydraulic infrastructure and produced a series of maps.This study takes these hydraulic maps as its subject and investigates the interplay between maps, mapping, and hydraulic strategies. It examines evolving mapping techniques, from the organization of labour for data collection, to the critique of previous hydraulic schemes, and the revision of map design and annotation. Rooted in neo-Confucian principles, conservationists envisioned and designed canal systems to ensure optimal water flow. Resisting industrialization, they advocated both the cultural significance and practical utility of waterways. Their conservationist ideas were promoted to the public through the erection of stele maps and the distribution of printed maps. This research enriches the understanding of the water management of China in history and sheds light on the government’s current hydraulic strategies.  

City Impermanent: Watery Speculations in Thailand’s Sinking Capital 
Eli Elinoff School of Social and Cultural Studies, Victoria University of Wellington

Abstract: Bangkok is sinking. The low-lying Thai capital is built into the soft clay of the Chao Phraya River delta. It has always been entangled with water, flooding regularly and, occasionally, catastrophically. Mass urbanization in the delta, infrastructural transformations in the river’s wider ecosystem, and climate change have made Bangkok’s relationship with water even more complex. Moderate projections forecast that the majority of the city will be underwater by 2100.  Rather than asking if this future is possible or exploring when it might happen, this paper asks a different question, one that many residents themselves ask: What do we do now? This paper considers various answers to this question by surveying speculative imaginaries of climate change futures circulating Bangkok’s concentrated and dispersed geographies. In doing so, I consider how various epistemologies—eco-nationalism, techno-modernism, Buddhist fatalism— shape and saturate disparate future-making technologies: architectural renderings, flood-projects, government plans, and art practices. Speculation, dreams, fabulation, conspiracy, rumors, denial, blame, critique, debate, and resignation all arise as modalities of thought and action through which the future gets speculated into being. Attention to these technologies of futuring reveals how uneasy attachments to the present result in visions of cities impermanent, which, in turn, shape the existing urban fabric as it comes into being. Rather than giving rise to apocalypticism, epistemologies of future speculation channel energy towards building pathways towards living with and within the future’s increasingly murky waters. As I demonstrate, speculation is not an idle practice, but an essential one, critical to the ways Thai citizens are navigating the convergence of sinking pavements, gathering rains, and rising tides.

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The event will be held in English

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