De la Rosa Solano, Sofia

De la Rosa Solano, Sofia

Research Fellow

Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, UK

Research Interests

My research interests include environmental history, political ecology and environmental justice. More specifically, I am interested on how inequalities are expressed in both society and space, particularly through water. With those interests in mind I'm contributing to the RECOMS ITN with the project Co-creating Urban Waterways as Socially Diverse Spaces.  I consider that water may provide a strong link to aprehend the complexity of what we now call environmental issues, and this project provides the perfect oportunity to focus on that. Within the project I will also use a historic approach, because I believe the understanding of these environmental issues in a time perspective may question many things that a present-day study may take for granted, and therefore bring valuable elements to understand our realities. 


Since I was studying my bachelor in History at the National University of Colombia I started looking for tools that would allow me to overcome the harsh division between humanities and natural sciences. I joined the Environmental History group at my department, and eventually that path led me to commit in socio/environmental research. After my graduation, I worked for institutions in Colombia that had been mostly interested in natural research, like the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Environmental Research,  Bogota’s Botanic Garden and the NGO Tropenbos International. All of these institutes where innovating and creating research projects where environment and society could be analyzed in a more comprehensive way. 

After two years of work experience I moved to Amsterdam to start my MA in Latin American Studies. In there I found the flexibility to adapt the program to my own interests and focus in socio-environmental topics and water studies. I finished the program at the end of 2017 and afterwards I was accepted to be part of the RECOMS ITN.

Project summary

This project explores canal renovation in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands from an environmental history perspective. The primary focus will be on power dynamics related to canal renovation. Starting in the 1960’s, the idea is to trace the participation and influence of different stakeholders, their imaginaries, agendas and uses of urban waterways in selected study cases. The main research question (in progress) will address how different stakeholders have promoted, interacted and contested the canal intervention processes in the selected study sites from 1960 to current day. Additional subsidiary research questions will guide an investigation of: what have been the main way for communities to get involved in canal restoration? How has perception of the waterways evolved in relation to the territory? The historical analysis helps to understand the empirical data of cases where the renovation agendas took place and different adaptation processes were triggered. It will be used to investigate the evolution of the interests of communities, government and private organizations, including how canal use changed during that time period and the role canals play in the conception of territory. A historical lens also highlights the long-term consequences linked to renovation that cannot be fully grasped by only studying contemporary cases. At the same time, following the historical study through to the present day advances our understanding of how to promote participatory action among stakeholders for contemporary urban blue space management. It is fundamental to analyze stakeholder perceptions of canal renovation projects to, in turn, then comprehend the ways in which such projects reflect particular stakeholder views, needs and identities – including whether some come to be prioritized over others. In exploring canal renovation as having the potential to contribute to (or undermine) the building of community resourcefulness, particular attention will be given during this study to community initiatives and co-creative approaches to constructing inclusive blue spaces.