Johanna Götz is a doctoral researcher at Helsinki University. Currently, she is a visiting PhD researcher with CSDS and the UNESCO Chair in Resource Governance and Futures Literacy, Chulalongkorn University. She is curious to better understand how water and art, as distinct but related matters, are mobilized by social movements and how they can be utilized to form a more nuanced understanding of processes of democracy-in-the-un/making in contemporary Burma/Myanmar and beyond.
Carl Middleton (PhD) is Deputy Director of graduate studies in international development studies (MAIDS-GRID) and Director of the Center for Social Development Studies in the Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University. His research focuses on the politics and policy of the environment in Southeast Asia, particularly on humanity-in-nature relations, the political ecology of water and energy, and human mobility and climate change. He helped establish and now heads the Chulalongkorn University UNESCO Chair on Resource Governance and Futures Literacy.


Art as Political Ecology/Political Ecology as Art? Exploring Affect and the Ontological Politics of the Mekong River

Abstract: In recent decades, the Mekong basin has undergone significant changes from a largely free-flowing, local, mostly predictable river to one impacted by socio-ecological changes. Large hydropower dams and climate change, among other factors, have transformed life with and along the river. Plans and practices of “development” in the Mekong basin have been subject to various in/formal debates. These have included the critical viewpoint of political ecology researchers and a range of contemporary artists who have often allied with impacted riparian communities. The strength in their approaches lies in calling attention to the very politics embedded in the causes, processes, and consequences/outcomes of changes along the Mekong River. Thereby, the very relationality of the human and more-than-human is increasingly being re-centered. What remains less explored, however, is the role emotional dimensions play within these human/more-than-human processes from everyday being-with-the-river to more formalized Mekong River politics, as well as how they influence art and research praxis. Against this background and based on ongoing research that engages artists and political ecology researchers, this paper draws on conceptualizations of how affect and emotions are considered within (feminist) political ecology scholarship and recent (re)conceptualizations around ontological politics of water/s, as well as the way contemporary artists engage the emotional within their practices. The paper will argue that the “affective ontological politics” of the Mekong River remains little understood to date yet is crucial towards understanding human and more-than-human entanglements.
Keywords: emotional/affective political ecology, human/more-than-human relationality, ontological politics of water, contemporary art, emotional turn