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Title: Connecting canals : exercises in recombinant ecology
Author: Mason, Victoria
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Canals have created grooves through the landscape of England and Wales for over 250 years, but they were dismissed by modernity, and narratives of disenchantment linger. Whilst visitor numbers grow as canals experience a ‘Second Golden Age’ and attempts are made to promote these waterways as ecological resources, they remain overlooked within conservation and their futures are precarious. The linearity of canals generates ecological connection and safe passage, whilst these environments also enable expressive territories and tranquil atmospheres. This research highlights the capacity for canals to enchant and support liveliness, and situates discussions of socio-ecological management within growing national concerns for connectivity as an effective response to climatic change and habitat fragmentation. The twin aims of this research were explored empirically through a case study of the Basingstoke Canal and sought to consider the position of such waterways within conservation and address a neglect of water within human geography. In accompanying practitioners and experimenting with creative methodologies this research begins by demonstrating the possibilities for wonder, surprise, and attachment after the ontological loss of Nature. Subsequent chapters draw upon fieldwork encounters, interdisciplinarity alliances, and a reworking of concepts within ecology and multinatural geography to exercise recombination as the central mode of address of this research. In inflecting the term’s ecological salience with a materialist regard for multiplicity, repetition, and emergence this research challenges the position of canals and the presentation of corridors within conservation. The beguiling simplicity of connectivity has enabled its ready incorporation within conservation discourse, despite a paucity of empirical attention; whilst contributing to work addressing this lacuna this research also introduces a more nuanced notion of complexity into discussions of connectivity and interrogates the apparent separation of corridors and sites. Encounters with the ecologies and publics assembling and disassembling through the Basingstoke Canal demonstrate that linearity does not preclude interested gatherings or absolve management of the obligation to respond, and highlights the need for biosecurity practices which are more articulate and attuned to difference. Recombinant ecologies invite and demand response, but conservation remains spatially cautious and this is further foregrounded as the challenges of incorporating the watery, connective, environments of canals are traced.
Supervisor: Whatmore, Sarah Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Technologies of politics and ecology ; Geography ; Canals; Human Geography; Materialism; Connectivity