Atsuro Morita, Associate Professor, Osaka University

From Gravitational Machine to Universal Habitat: The Chao Phraya Drainage Basin between Infrastructure and Science

In recent years, water has gained a certain prominence in anthropology. This is partly because of the growing concern over climate change whose impact is often mediated by water related disasters such as flood and see level rise. As Stefen Helmreich argues, in discourses and practices concerning these water disasters water often operates as a theory machine that stimulates various reflections on the world. This paper elucidates the development of the drainage basin model as a theory machine. The drainage basin model is one particular material-semiotic frame for capturing the relative motion between water and land. Facilitating a continuous movement back and forth between science and infrastructure, the drainage basin allows for the revelation of unexpected forms of relatedness and has played an important role in the emergence of a form of relational morality. To make this argument, this paper focuses on the Chao Phraya Delta in Thailand. While located in the periphery of modern science, the delta holds significance as a place where colonial technoscience and indigenous development intersected.

Atsuro Morita is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Human Sciences School, Osaka University. His interest include travel of technology and knowledge, lateral ethnography, ontologies and the relation between Western and non-Western anthropologies. Since the early 2000s, he has been working on the intersection between indigenous technology development and technology transfer in Thailand. Since 2012 he has been co-convening a Japan-Denmark collaboration project Environmental Infrastructures, in which he explores the development of water management infrastructure in the Chao Phraya Delta including its multispecies and cosmological aspects. His recent publication includes ‘Anthropology as critique of reality: A Japanese turn’, Hau 2(2); ‘The Ethnographic Machine’, Science, Technology and Human Values 39(2); ‘Multispecies Infrastructure’, Ethnos, forthcoming; ‘Anthropology and STS: Generative Interface, Multiple Locations’ (with Marisol de la Cadena et al.) in Hau 5(1).

All seminars in the series.