Living Deltas Research Hub and Durham University

24-25 March 2022, Durham University

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River deltas have historically been hotspots for human civilization as populations settle in their fertile grounds seeking resources and opportunities for prosperity. In South Asia, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta shared by India and Bangladesh hosts over 130 million people, while the Mekong Delta represents the largest agricultural production region of Vietnam; in Africa, the Nile Delta in the north and the Niger Delta in the west represent two of the most significant economic and cultural centers of the continent; in Europe, the Netherlands is located in a delta consisting of many lakes, rivers and canals; the Mississippi Delta in North America, as well as the Magdalena and Amazon Deltas in South America, hold special places in the global discourse on the environmental impact of the Anthropocene. Despite the status of deltas as vital socioecological systems and regional food-baskets, the terrain and the livelihoods of those who rely on them are under threat from human exploitation, environmental degradation and climate change urging for the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This transdisciplinary conference aims to explore the representations in audiovisual culture of the socioecological challenges faced by delta communities around the world, as well as the relevant cultural strategies and practices employed by vulnerable groups confronted with delta change. In this framework, the conference will examine the role that contemporary audiovisual culture plays in forging global environmental imaginaries and increasing the visibility of the endangered delta futures.

Delta Futures is a hybrid conference taking place on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 March 2022 at Durham University.

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Keynote Speakers

Subhankar Banerjee

Subhankar Banerjee
is Lannan Foundation Endowed Chair, Professor of Art & Ecology and founding Director of both the Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities and the Species in Peril project at the University of New Mexico. He is an artist, writer, conservationist, and public scholar. His place-based and community-engaged interdisciplinary and intersectional efforts aim to advance multispecies justice to mitigate the intensifying biodiversity and climate crises. Coeditor (with T.J. Demos and Emily Eliza Scott) of The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Art, Visual Culture, and Climate Change (Routledge, February 2021), Subhankar was most recently cohost (with U.S. Senator Tom Udall) of the UNM Biodiversity Webinar Series (Fall 2020), cocurator (with Josie Lopez) of Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande (Fall 2019), and convener of the last oil: a multispecies justice symposium (February 2018). His photographs have been exhibited in more than fifty museum exhibitions around the world, including Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment at the Princeton University Art Museum (2018-2019) and the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations (2012). Subhankar is the lead convener of "a Library, a Classroom, and the World," a two-part project in the 2022 Venice Biennial Art exhibition Personal Structures organized by the European Cultural Centre; the team is composed of artists and scholars who span three generations, represent multiple ethnicities, and hail from several continents.

Slowing Down to Read the Signs A visual analysis of rights-based conservation in the Sundarbans “Why do you keep going up and down the same road, day after day, looking at the same road signs?” my sister Sudakshina Sen, an avid wildlife photographer asks with frustration as I stop to make, for the fifth time in five days, a photo of the sign “Drive Slow: Elephants Have Right of Way” along state highway SH-78 in Western Ghats, India. My obsession to slow down to look at signs started in 2015, in the Olympic National Park in the United States, shortly after the Paradise Fire erupted in a remote section of the park. In the first part of the talk, I’ll share stories of developing this practice over the past seven years—of slowing down to see and read signs that can be found along roads or creeks. With that preamble, I’ll focus the remainder of the talk on Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest on Earth, which is situated on the transnational Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta that spans across coastal Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. While showing a few photos of creek-side signs from the Sundarban Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, I will offer ecocritical readings of those signs to discuss rights-based conservation. As it turns out, Cyclone Amphan destroyed almost all the creek-side signs in the Sundarban Tiger Reserve in May 2020. However, the photos of those signs can now foster conversations to institute a more-just future for the nonhuman and human residents of the Sundarbans, including numerous species of bird, fish, and invertebrates, not merely the iconic Bengal Tiger. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is expected to finalize and adopt a global biodiversity framework at this year’s UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 to take place in Kunming, China (25 April – 8 May 2022). The CBD has been urged by Indigenous and other human rights activists to adopt a right-based conservation framework and not perpetuate violence through fortress conservation.

Philippa Lovatt

Philippa Lovatt (she/her)
is Co-Director of Centre for Screen Cultures and Lecturer in Film Studies at University of St Andrews. With Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn, she recently co-edited 'Tracing the Anthropocene in Southeast Asian film and artists' moving image' in Screen (Winter 2021) and with Jasmine Nadua Trice co-edited 'Theorizing Region: Film and Video Cultures in Southeast Asia' in Journal of Cinema and Media Studies (Spring 2021). Philippa recently co-curated and co-organised 'โลก(ไร้)รูป (Im)material worlds: Tracing creative practice, histories and environmental contexts in artists' moving image from Southeast Asia and the UK' an online series of film screenings and paired conversations funded by the British Council in collaboration with Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn, LUX Scotland and CAMPLE LINE. Her first monograph Reverberant Histories: Expanded Listening in Asian Art Cinema and Artists' Moving Image will be published by Edinburgh University Press in 2023.

Som Supaparinya

Som Supaparinya
is a Chiang Mai based visual artist, currently on a DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, who works with a wide variety of mediums such as installation, found objects, still and moving images – mainly with a documentarian approach. She is interested in the change of landscape through political, historical, and literary lenses.

Tracing environmental histories and futures in Southeast Asian artists’ moving image This joint keynote will discuss recent examples of artists’ moving image from Southeast Asia that engage with environmental concerns before focusing in on the video work of Chiang Mai based multi-media artist Som Supaparinya. Discussing the expressive potential of duration, abstraction, and location sound recording, the talk will consider how artists’ moving image can reveal an attunement to the phenomenology of place while providing insights into the layered environmental histories of particular locations. Som’s practice involves extensive research, which she has carried out across the region in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia where she has investigated recent experiences of infrastructural development, and in particular, the construction of hydroelectricity dams. In this talk, Som will discuss her multi-channel video and sound installations, My Grandpa’s Route Has Been Forever Blocked (2012), When Need Moves the Earth (2014), and A Separation of Sand and Islands (2018) that address how dams impact upon local ways of life that are intimately connected to the environment and how the land and riverscapes affected have been dramatically and irrevocably altered by human activity. Som will also discuss her most recent work Two Sides of the Moon (2021) which is a two-channel video installation that focuses on the Mun river (Mun meaning ‘valuable gift from the ancestors’ in local dialect), which was given the name ‘Moon River’ by the American troops who were stationed there during the Cold War. For this work, Som traces this history and records the perspectives of local fishermen who live alongside the river, focusing attention on the urgent question of how the changes of the river have impacted upon their lives.


Thursday 24 March 2022
Opening Remarks
David Cowling, Head of School in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (MLAC)
Julian Williams, Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience (IHRR)
Keynote A
Chair: Angelos Theocharis
Subhankar Banerjee Slowing Down to Read the Signs: A Visual Analysis of Rights-Based Conservation in the Sundarbans
Short Break
Panel 1: Audiovisual Narratives of Delta Presents and Futures
Chair: Maggie Roe
Laura Beckwith and Chamithri Greru Seeing the Future: Young People’s Visualisations of Climate Change in the Mekong Delta Sandro Simon From Friction to Future: Audiovisual Reassemblage from the Deltaic In-Between Hue Le, Brian Barrett, Ly Thi Ha Bui, Dien Nguyen, Dzung Nguyen and Quynh Anh Nguyen Counter Mapping and the Socioecological Challenges of Ethnic Minority Communities in Northern Vietnam.
Coffee Break
Panel 2: Climate Change and Environmental Migration
Chair: Adam Hejnowicz Debojyoti Das The SSRC Environmental Refugees Project in Comparative Mode Across Field Sites in India and Bangladesh Samina Islam, Sumiya Salim and Juel Mahmud Picturing Migration through Community Voice in Ershadnagar Slum, Dhaka Shibaji Bose and Upasona Ghosh PhotoVoice and Digital Diary as Tools for Action Research in Sundarbans, India Bina Sengar Visual Representation of Migrants from Bengal Delta in Kesari Bazaar and Cantonment Area, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India
Lunch Break
Panel 3: Communicating Climate Emergencies
Chair: Siobhan Warrington
Lonán Ó Briain “I Choose Formosa Fish!” The Cultivation of Environmental Awareness through Vietnamese Song Abdul Kabil Khan, Mamunor Rashid and Syeda Sadia Mehjabin Journalism Education and Climate Change in Bangladesh Elja Roy Community-Based Media Making as Environmental Communication: Field to Media Methodology in the Sundarbans
Coffee Break
Panel 4: Waterscapes of the Anthropocene
Chair: Vinita Damodaran
Sneha Krishnan Hazardous landscapes in films depicting Eastern India Niki Black, Cat Button and Maggie Roe Ponds, Puppets and Beyond: Developing Audio-Visual Cultural Collaborations in Vietnam Abdul Mobin, Sarmin Aktar, Md. Abdul Munim, Chamithri Greru, and Siobhan Warrington Notes and Reflections from the Field: Using Oral History and Visual Methods in Koyra, Bangladesh
Friday 25 March 2022
Day 2 Opening Remarks
Andy Large, Director of the UKRI GCRF Living Deltas Hub
Keynote B
Chair: F.J. Hernández Adrián
Philippa Lovatt and Som Supaparinya Tracing Environmental Histories and Futures in Southeast Asian Artists’ Moving Image
Coffee Break
Panel 5: Audiovisual media in Environmental Science Research
Chair: Andy Large
Cai Ladd, Michael Sandager, Maria Maza, Thorsten Balke Mangrove “Restoration Potential” Maps as a Narrative for Coastal Delta Dweller Resilience Emilie Cremin “On the Brahmaputra’s riverbank”: Making a documentary film about a vulnerable socio-ecological system Heather L. Moorhouse Tropical Asian Mega-delta ponds: a multimedia exploration of a vital socio-ecological system Oanh Truong Thi Kim and Beena Giridharan Art-based Science Communication: Understanding Young Individuals' Transformations in Response to Climate Change
Panel 6: Multimedia Representations of Climate Crisis
Chair: Syeda Sadia Mehjabin
Niki Black, Cat Button and Maggie Roe Picturing Bonbibi: Using Representations of the Forest Goddess to Understand Climate Change Impact in the Sundarbans Delta Franz Krause Delta Tales: Collective Ethno-graphic Storytelling Sandrine Uwase Ndahiro Environmental Degradation and Futurity in Niger Delta Axel Pérez Trujillo Dry Riverbed, Stranded Boats: Tracing the Disappearance of Lake Poopó in Madre agua and El reflejo del lago
Coffee Break
Panel 7: Visual Action Research with Vulnerable Communities in the Bengal Delta
Chair: Terry Cannon
Lyla Mehta and Shibaji Bose Transformation through Visual Action Research Techniques Terry Cannon Locality and Globality in Audiovisual Representations of the Bengal Delta Upasona Ghosh and Shibaji Bose Photo Voice: Collective Voices of Women Farmers on Salinity-Resistant Crops Anindita Saha , Shibaji Bose, Vinita Damodaran The Mangrove School Project Paintings: Transforming Future in a Climate Change Hotspot Mahmuda Akter Digital Diary: Delta Migrations and Climate Change Discussant: Lars Otto Naess
Short Break
Roudtable: Endangered Delta Futures and Visions of Emergence
Chair: Angelos Theocharis and F.J. Hernández Adrián
Participants: Subhankar Banerjee, Franz Krause , Andy Large, Philippa Lovatt, and Som Supaparinya
Closing Remarks


The “Delta Futures: (In)visibilities in Audiovisual Culture” conference is organized by:

Dr Francisco-J. Hernández Adrián
Associate Professor of Hispanic and Visual Culture Studies/Director of Postgraduate Studies in MLAC, Durham University

Dr Angelos Theocharis
Postdoctoral Researcher in Film, Visual Culture and Media at Durham University

With support from:

  • the Living Deltas Hub – an interdisciplinary research Hub funded by the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund investigating South and Southeast Asian delta sustainability
  • the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR) – a world-leading research institute in hazard, risk and resilience based at Durham University
  • the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (MLAC) at Durham University


Conference Location:
Durham University

Room TLC033, Teaching and Learning Centre, South Rd,
Durham DH1 3LS