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Carolyn Smith

Carolyn Smith

PhD student

Volcanic Imaginaries: Between Indigeneity and Risk Across the Chile-Argentina Border

Biography

Carolyn Smith's PhD research examines intersection between geography, decolonial theory, spatial theory and environmental risk in relation to the indigenous Mapuche-Pewenche communities living with Copahue volcano. The persistently active volcano straddles the Chile-Argentina border in the regions of Bíobío (Chile) and Neuquén (Argentina). The project uses Copahue as a point of equivocation through which to examine the development, use and negotiation of knowledges in the context of volcanic risk and drastically asymmetric power dynamics.

Qualifications

  • PhD in Geography, University of Cambridge, 2020-present
  • MPhil & ARB/RIBA Part II in Architecture and Urban Design, University of Cambridge, Queens' College, 2017-2019
  • BSc(hons) in Architecture, University of Bath, 2012-2016

Career

  • 2020-present: PhD Researcher, ERC IMAGINE (PI: Dr Amy Donovan), Department of Geography, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • 2019-2020: Research Assistant, Department of Economics, Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia, Venice, Italy
  • 2019-2020: Researcher, We are here Venice (NGO), Venice, Italy
  • 2020: Research Assistant, H2020 Pop Machina, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • 2016-2017: Architectural Assistant, Designscape Architects, Bath, UK
  • 2014: Architectural Assistant, Designscape Architects, Bath, UK
  • 2013: Architectural Assistant, Tonic Architecture, Bristol, UK

Awards

  • 2021: Premio per Venezia, Instituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti (for Whose City is it Anyway report)
  • 2021: Wolfson College Language Grant, University of Cambridge
  • 2020-present: ERC IMAGINE Studentship
  • 2018: Kettles Yard Travel Award (for MPhil fieldwork)
  • 2018: Department of Architecture Fieldwork Funding, University of Cambridge
  • 2016: Basil Spence Prize, University of Bath

Research

Carolyn's research sits within a wider ERC study titled IMAGINE: Geographical Imaginations and the (Geo)politics of Volcanic Risk, and led by Dr Amy Donovan. The research is concerned with the role of geographical imaginations in the creation, use and communication of knowledges by scientists, government authorities and local communities in transboundary volcanic contexts; the transdisciplinary study is currently working with various communities, volcanoes and scientific institutions across the Andes.

Within this wider remit, Carolyn's PhD project project is an ethnographic study that focuses on the Mapuche-Pewenche communities who live with Copahue volcano. Copahue is persistently active and straddles the border between Chile (Bíobío) and Argentina (Neuquén). The research situates volcanic hazards and risk mitigation within a more holistic understanding of (geo)political power dynamics, colonial legacies and ontological con/disjunctures. Through collaboration with the Pewenche communities, the project uses Copahue as a common coordinate through which to examine the intersection, creation and negotiation of knowledges and actions in the mitigation of the threats posed by the volcano's activity.

There are six Pewenche communities living in close proximity to Copahue (four in Chile, two in Argentina); each has its own distinct history and relationship with the volcano. The area is marked by intense (geo)political tensions and layered power dynamics which have undermined past efforts to mitigate and manage volcanic risk. By focusing on the varied experiences of each community, the project provides critical insight into the role of institutional and governmental interactions in shaping past mitigation efforts across the postcolonial border, and aims to contribute to a more open and holistic approach to risk management around Copahue in the future.

Carolyn arrived in the Department of Geography via Architecture and Urban Design (BSc(hons) & MPhil), but a common theme throughout her work has been an engagement with the links between collective identities, the material world (built/urban form and the land), histories and social justice. Her background in urbanism provided a strong grounding in the interrogation of social, economic, political and cultural contexts. Cities are just one, concentrated, expression of our collective relationship with place. Carolyn's two-year MPhil at the University of Cambridge was centred on Venice (Italy). In the context of mass tourism, contemporary depopulation, rising sea levels and environmental degradation, Venice's urban realm is a contested space. Carolyn's MPhil thesis examined the symbiotic relationship between myth-making, imagined reality and the city's urban form in weaving the contemporary collective identity of the città storica.

Carolyn's research interests include: geographical imaginations, social volcanology, history, anthropology, political ecology, disaster risk reduction, decolonial theory, indigeneity, architectural and urban theories, spatial philosophy, Latin American studies, intercultural communication.

Publications

Book chapters

  • Camatti, Nicola, Carolyn Smith, Jan van der Borg (2021). Changing the Growth-Focused Mindset: A Pathway Towards Sustainable Tourism Development. In: Mandić A., Petrić L. (eds) Mediterranean Protected Areas in the Era of Overtourism. Springer, Cham. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-69193-6_16

Reports