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Cortesi, Luisa

Grant Type
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation
Yale U.
Status
Completed Grant
Approve Date
Project Title
Cortesi, Luisa, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Living in Floods: Knowledges and Technologies of Disastrous Waters in North Bihar, India,' supervised by Dr. Michael Dove

LUISA CORTESI, then a graduate student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, received funding in April 2013 to aid research on 'Living in Floods: Knowledges and Technologies of Disastrous Waters in North Bihar, India,' supervised by Dr. Michael Dove. Funding allowed research in India to cover a large area in the flood affected areas of North Bihar for an extended period of time (March 2012-August 2015). Puzzled by the question of why and, particularly, how can people live in the midst of such disastrous waters, the grantee set out to explore water-related knowledge of water in a context where water is far more than a resource, and means death as much as life. Research focused on the experience of floods and found that the political definitions of disaster, rivers and floods subtly influence the ways in which people confront recurrent inundations. To broaden understanding of the local meanings of water, research looked into the embodied knowledge of the wet environment during and after floods. Findings on this matter upset common ideas of local knowledge, and particularly the assumption that local knowledge adapts to disastrous circumstances by developing mechanisms to cope with recurrent hazards. The project also investigated the ways in which local people choose which water to drink and which technology to use to source and purify drinking water, and learned that people do not drink necessarily the water they consider the cleanest, and that decisions over drinking water, despite being so obviously influential on human health, are far from being driven by it. In order to investigate the difficult topic of knowledge, the grantee developed her own method inspired by epistemology and more generally by the philosophy of knowledge.