De la Rosa Solano, Sofia
University of Groningen, the Netherlands
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.
Society’s vital relationship with water is mediated by the different interactions, technologies and imaginaries around it. In Northern European urban areas this relationship is mediated by waterways. This project aims to study how urban post-industrial cities with an extended network of waterways evolved, comparing the cases of Coventry (UK) and Rotterdam (NL). The time frame focuses in the post-industrial period, when both cities transitioned towards a service-oriented economy, even though in very different ways. To compare these cities becomes relevant as it reveals how, despite their differences, they developed similar relationships of communities with water. These relationships took the form of river undergrounding, development of leisurescapes, and communities’ displacements. All of them, developments that entail the possibility of increasing vulnerability for certain stakeholders within the cities.
This study draws upon methods from environmental humanities, particularly environmental history. The main groups of interest will be the communities directly interacting with the waterways and the entities in charge of managing these infrastructures. Archival research with a focus on visual culture (photography, maps) and development plans will be engaged. Alongside, the project will collect oral histories from local community members, using the snowball method. Analysis of how different stakeholders conceived and act around waterways will be analysed under the concept of waterscape and water abundancy.
The findings of this research will be disseminated via three peer-reviewed journal articles, strategically placed in the fields of environmental history, water studies and urban studies. Jointly, the project aims to reach larger audiences, particularly the communities which it will be researching by co-creating non-academic outputs (videos, social media outputs). Reachable scientific knowledge seeks to empower communities in the access and control of their waterways. With this focus, the findings will bring new elements to discuss notions around waterways such as water abundance, access to blue/green spaces in urban areas, and gentrification