The Berkel is a fluvial river that starts in Germany and it meanders towards the Netherlands through the Achterhoek region reaching the city of Zutphen, where it flows into the IJssel (van Onzenoort, 2016). Originally, the river had seasonally overflowed floodplains that constantly changed its meanders (Otermann, 2015). This flooding uncertainty led humans to control the Berkel since the 13th century with canalization works to prevent floods and facilitate navigation (Logemann, 2021; van Onzenoort, 2016). One of the first large-scale landscape transformations was the division of the markegronden (common land) from 1886 where large areas were drained to be parcelled and cultivated (Otermann, 2015). In the 20th century, the Berkel started to be rationally drained through canalizations, weirs, and sluices transforming its landscape with intensified agriculture, land reclamation, and consolidation by provincial and national government initiatives such as the ‘ruilverkaveling’ (Waterschap-Rijn-en-IJssel, 2017).
Nowadays, water management in the Netherlands has new ecological, cultural, and social goals where different actors are working on restoration projects to bring back the meandering condition of the Berkel to enhance its natural-cultural history (Logemann, 2021). The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Rijn en Ijssel Waterboard, Municipalities, land owners, and citizen-private organizations (e.g. Geldersh Landschap en Kasteelen or “the 3rd Berkel Company”) have been active stakeholders in these territorial transformations, leading to a constant process of negotiation regarding the landscape management of the Berkel (Frijhooff et al., 2011). During the research, it will be central to understand how these scales of jurisdiction and their related legal, financial, and political power have historically informed and shaped the transformation of the landscape.
Frijhooff, W., Groothedde, M., Strake, C. t., & Loohuis, J. (2011). Historische atlas van Zutphen : torenstad aan Berkel en IJssel. Vantilt.
Logemann, D. (2021). Achtergronden: over de Berkel. Retrieved 2022/06/08 from https://www.berkelpad.nl/achtergronden/over-de-berkel/
Otermann, K. (2015). De Berkel op de schop. Natura, (4), 16-17.
van Onzenoort, K. (2016). Beleef de Berkel. Mooi Gelderland, 13(4), 14-15.
Waterschap-Rijn-en-IJssel. (2017). Berkel en Zijtakken. Retrieved 2022/06/08 from https://www.wrij.nl/statisch/berkel/kopie-watersysteem-0/buurserbeek/
PhD researcher: Catalina Rey Hernández
Worldwide, the management of rivers and riverine landscapes has been based on technocratic expert knowledge, involving top-down processes of landscape design, territorial planning, and related social-material transformations. These processes directly affect riverine communities and livelihoods, triggering local confrontations with -and adaptations to- the imposed designs and related forms of socio-material ordering. In this context, this research aims to better understand: a) how such riverine landscape design and territorial ordering plans are shaped and re-created by policies, institutional and normative practices, and specific powerful interest groups; b) how such designs transform socio-material relations and practices in local riverine communities; c) how communities resist, negotiate and transform the imposition of such designs and territorial ordering plans; and d) in which ways counter designs and counter geographies can support resistance groups and networks to express their own riverine understandings, aspirations and interests. The research will focus on the cases of the re-design of the Berkel River (NL) and the contestations around large-scale mining projects in the Quimsacocha wetlands (EC). The research will build on insights from the social construction of technology scholarship and notions of actor-network theory to better understand and theorize the role of ‘designs’ in the contestation and transformation of riverine spaces in which a multiplicity of actors try to create a specific social, technological and environmental order (a hydrosocial territory).