CEE | Center for Experimental Ethnography
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The Schuylkill River looking north toward Center City Philadelphia from the South Street Bridge in Jan 2020. Photo By DougH4872. CC by SA 3.0
"Deconstructing the fixed image of the soundscape, this project takes the sound of the river as neither exclusively mental nor material but as a phenomenon of continuous experience with the river"
‘Riparian Encounters’ investigates the acoustic life of a water landscape in Philadelphia. Centered around the ethnographic study of the Schuylkill river, the project is based on weekly visits to multiple sites of the river over a period of six months. The final audio can be seen as an ethnographic archive of the sonic vivacity of the Schuylkill river approached from the perspective of acoustemology (Steve Feld, 2015). Deconstructing the fixed image of the soundscape, this project takes the sound of the river as neither exclusively mental nor material but as a phenomenon of continuous experience with the river. To investigate the critical relationality of knowledge vis-à-vis the Schuylkill, the project captures the sonic traces of different forms of—animal, human, watery, windy—movements along the waterway. Through the recording of fixed sites, rowing sessions, walks under the rain, across and under the bridges, and everyday interactions with the river community; the project documents sound and movement and opens up new possibilities of understanding this place by means of feeling-with (Donna Haraway, 2016) these riparian bodies. Finally, following a semiotic understanding of the life of the river (Mikhail Bakhtin, 1981), the project also emphasizes the polyphonic, dialogical and unfinishable nature of these continuous encounters with the Schuylkill river throughout the year. Overall, Riparian Encounters explores the affordances of audio ethnographic work in the context of sensing and experiencing the spatiality and temporality beside the river.
Pablo Aguilera Del Castillo
PhD Student in Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
Pablo is a Mexico City native and a Ph.D. student in the anthropology department focusing on environmental anthropology in the Yucatan Peninsula. Prior to his time at Penn he received a BA in Human Ecology and an MA in Critical Development Studies. He has worked in between Mexico and Bolivia on development programs and environmentalism for over six years. His research is situated at the interface of STS, anthropology, and Latin American studies. His current project explores the transformation of the Yucatec aquifers as well as the community efforts to respond to these changes. As part of his doctoral research he has used photography, mapping, drawing, and audio ethnography to explore the quotidian practices of local scientists and communities around various emergent environmental problems in the Yucatan Peninsula.