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Meet our visiting PhD Student: Gabrielle Fenton

Starting April 5th, CEH is pleased to host PhD candidate Gabrielle Fenton from UCLouvain who, in her PhD work, explores the changing imaginaries and politics of grasslands in the Scheldt’s estuary in Flanders.

Gabrielle Fenton is a Social Anthropology PhD candidate at UCLouvain in Belgium and will be visiting CEH for three months from the 5th of April, during the writing-up phase of her research project.

Her fieldwork took place in the dairy grasslands of the Scheldt’s estuary in Flanders (Belgium), which have historically been claimed by humans from the river and its wetlands to create agricultural land. However, in response to increasing water extremes, policies have, since the early 2000s, shifted towards giving back room to the river. The estuary’s grasslands are therefore being re-imagined as semi-wet habitats for endangered species, as controlled flooding zones and as assets in the development of a leisure economy. In this context, Gabrielle worked with dairy farmers, following them into the grasslands as they worked with - and around - water flows, stagnations, excesses and absences. Guided by these flows, she also spent time with other stakeholders of the grasslands wetness such as nature conservation organizations and water management officials.

Gabrielle wishes to depict the complexity of the hydrosociality that ties the dairy farmers to these grasslands at a time when they feel directly threatened by environmental protection policies and in a context where ‘how wet ought the grasslands be?’ has become a polarizing question.