In this very first episode of AoA, we speak with Kregg Hetherington about his project on “ghost rivers” in Montreal, Canada. Kregg is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, where he specialises in environment, infrastructure and the bureaucratic state. He is the author of the multi-award-winning 2020 book, The Government of Beans, based on his long-term fieldwork on soybeans in Paraguay, as well as Guerrilla Auditors, an ethnography of land struggles in Paraguay.
As you’ll hear, Kregg’s current work continues to engage with the more-than-human world - this time with rivers, even ones that sometimes cannot be seen any more. Kregg directs the Concordia Ethnography Lab, where he runs a collaborative project called Emergent Waters which aims to understand Montreal’s changing relationship with water as a defining feature of its environment and infrastructure.
In this conversation, Kregg and I begin by discussing his current work, and the possibilities and limitations of thinking of rivers - and other nonhumans - as “kin” or “persons”. We also talk about the methodological and pedagogical approach Kregg calls “composite ethnography”, as well as STS (science and technology studies), and how the particular qualities of water make it a different kind of ethnographic object compared to land.