Citizenship Lab Presents: Ghost Rivers in the Urban Anthropocene

Date/Time: Friday, February 17, 9:00 AM China time
Location: [ZOOM] 974 1691 6744
Speaker: Kregg Hetherington, Associate Professor at Concordia University in Montreal

Several years ago, a group of students at Concordia University went looking for water and found a ghost. They weren’t alone in this. Local activists, urban planners and eventually city officials all found themselves, over the past decade, drawn into relation with a long-forgotten river that, for different reasons, had begun to haunt local infrastructure. In 2021 they even held a funeral, played the bagpipes, and tried to come to terms with a new form of mourning. As this paper will argue, the appearance of ghost rivers is a kind of infrastructural inversion proper to the urban Anthropocene, conjured by shifting attention to landscapes of ecological destruction. To know a ghost river is to understand underground pipes and legal histories, it’s to become aware of contamination and histories of disease, and it’s to reflect on the future of human cohabitation. But communing with a ghost, and holding funerals for the deceased, is not the same as repair. Instead, it’s an invitation to reflect on new kinds of Anthropocene beings, and the responses that they demand.

Kregg Hetherington

Kregg Hetherington is an associate professor at Concordia University in Montreal, where he carries out research on the environment, infrastructure and the bureaucratic state. He is also the director of the Concordia Ethnography Lab, which encourages interdisciplinary experimentation in comparative methodologies. His latest book, The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops (Duke 2020) recently won the Rachel Carson award from the Society for the Social Study of Science, along with two other awards.