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Silvia Flaminio




Representations of dams : infrastructures, concessions and controversies.


The aim of this PhD thesis is to study representations and narratives on dams, which are often controversial infrastructures. If the symbolic role of dams has been underlined in the literature, few studies actually focus on the perception of dams and their spatial and temporal trajectories. Building on the literature of social and cultural geography on representation, and the writings of political ecology on discourse, this thesis confronts different sources (newspapers, interviews and archives), study areas (in France and Australia) and methodological approaches (quantitative and qualitative) in order to follow the discursive evolution of hydraulic infrastructure. The points of view of various stakeholders are also considered: inhabitants, engineers and hydraulic institutions, opponents to dams, administrations in charge of nature protection and scientists who produce environmental knowledge. From a methodologicial perspective, the dissertation highlights the limits of certain material and illustrates the necessity to consider different sources in parallel. The results show the evolution of waterscapes, hydrosocial spaces and cycles---the gradual concessions made to environmentalists at the expense of hydraulic bureaucracies---but they also illustrate, on a broader perspective, the production and the flow of discourses on the environment---the disaggregation of a Promethean discourse on nature and the multiplication of different and sometimes opposing representations of the environment---particularly during conflicts and controversies.

Key words

Social and cultural geography, political ecology, discourse, environment, controversy, conflict, dam.

H2O'Lyon thesis Director

Hervé Piégay, CNRS, ENS Lyon

Thesis co-director

Yves-François Le Lay, ENS Lyon

Doctoral School

ED 483 - Sciences Sociales


Biogeophily UMR 5600 EVS

Defence date

30 november 2018

Defence language


Thesis jury members

  • Sylvie Clarimont, Professor, Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, rapportrice
  • Marie-Anne Germaine, Maître de conférences à l'Université de Paris Nanterre, examinatrice
  • Lydie Goeldner-Gianella, Professor, Université Paris 1, rapportrice et présidente du jury
  • Jamie Linton, Maître de conférences à l'Université de Limoges, examinateur
  • Yves-François Le Lay, Maître de conférences à l'ENS Lyon, co-director
  • Hervé Piégay, Directeur de recherches au CNRS, thesis director.