Mauro Van Aken – Travelling models of water. Battlefields of knowledge and ideas of change in the Middle East

CISEPS – Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology and Social Sciences

Travelling models of water. Battlefields of knowledge and ideas of change in the Middle East

Mauro Van Aken
Cultural Anthropologist, University of Milano Bicocca

April 12, 2012, 12:00pm
U6, 4th floor, room 4160 (polivalente), Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo 1, Milano

river flow free  senturkAbstract: Development and modernization policies, as they have been posed and imposed in many contexts of the Southern World, represent strong evolutionary ideologies of how other cultures should change. Modernization of water in arid places all over the Middle East did not only transfer a culturally and historically construed notion of water as H2O: it carried a project of society and a model of political and environmental relationships, which encountered other historical ideas of water/society relationship. Departing from an ethnography of the local conflicts around water in Jordan Valley, historic cradle of irrigation and agriculture, we shall propose the analysis of such intense changes in terms of interpretation, grafting, selection and opposition among “traits” and cultural practices.

The seminar is part of the CISEPS project The diffusion of cultural traits, whose goal is to trigger interdiciplinary debates, emphasizing common problems and peculiarities among economics, philosophy, anthropology, geography, history, biology and many more fields. Thinking in terms of cultural traits – i.e., characters depending in some way on social learning – doesn’t imply exhaustion of cultural processes; rather, it means thinking critically to scientific models and metaphors for studying culture.