From Gravitational Machine to Universal Habitat: The Drainage Basin and Amphibious Futures in the Chao Phraya Delta, Thailand

  • Atsuro Morita Osaka University
Keywords: drainage basin, hydrology, urban design


This paper elucidates the development of the drainage basin model, one particular frame for capturing the relative motion between water and land, by highlighting the parallel developments between scientific notion and water management infrastructures. Facilitating a continuous movement back and forth between science and infrastructure, the drainage basin allows for the revelation of unexpected forms of relatedness and has played an important role in the emergence of a form of relational morality. To make this argument, this paper focuses on the Chao Phraya Delta in Thailand. While located in the periphery of the centers of modern science, the delta holds significance as a place where colonial hydrological technoscience and indigenous development intersected. The encounter between the two has resulted in a new vision of the city as a waterscape, a sort of drainage basin that connects natural, social and economic processes through numerous, complex water flows.

Author Biography

Atsuro Morita, Osaka University

Atsuro Morita is associate professor of anthropology at Osaka University. He has done ethnographic research on hydrology and infrastructure development in Thailand and Japan focusing on how ideas, artifacts and people travel between the two countries and beyond. Together with Casper Bruun Jensen, he currently convenes the Japanese team of the Delta’s Dealing with Uncertainty project. He is the author of Engineering in the Wild (Sekaishiso-sha, in Japanese), and editor of Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion with Penny Harvey and Casper Bruun Jensen (Routledge, 2016).

03 May 2017
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