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Professor Veronica Strang

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Member of the Department of Anthropology  

Biography

Veronica Strang is a cultural anthropologist. Her research focuses on human-environmental relations and people's engagements with land and, in particular, water. Her doctoral work (Oxford 1991-1994) produced a now well-known text, Uncommon Ground: cultural landscapes and environmental values (Berg 1997). From 1994 to 1997 Veronica conducted research at Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, while also teaching at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. In 1997 she took up a post at the University of Wales. Based on ethnographic research along the River Stour in Dorset, her book, The Meaning of Water (Berg 2004), considers how the symbolic meanings encoded in water affect patterns of water use and attitudes to water conservation.
In 2000 Veronica was awarded a Royal Anthropological Institute Fellowship in Urgent Anthropology, and returned to Australia to work with indigenous communities in Cape York. From 2002 she was in New Zealand, initially as Head of the School of Social Sciences at Auckland University of Technology, then (from 2005) as a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Auckland. With an Australian Research Council Discovery Award (2003-2007), she conducted research with water users along the Brisbane and Mitchell Rivers, described in Gardening the World; agency, identity, and the ownership of water (Berghahn 2009). The research facilitated the integration of social and natural science research on water issues, and this led to her appointment to the Scientific Advisory Group and then to the Steering Committee of UNESCO's International Ecohydrology Programme.
In 2007 she was awarded an International Water Prize as one of UNESCO's, Les Lumières de L'Eau [Water's Leading Lights] and was subsequently involved in editing a major UNESCO/MAB publication on Water and Cultural Diversity (Springer 2012). 

In 2008 Veronica co-convened an international conference in Auckland focused on property relations, and edited, with Mark Busse, an ASA monograph entitled Ownership and Appropriation (Berg 2010). While in New Zealand she also worked with the Maori Council to support indigenous legal claims to freshwater rights.
She first came to the Institute of Advanced Study as a Fellow, during its Water year in 2009. The Fellowship initiated an interdisciplinary project examining religious cosmologies, water beings and different trajectories of human-environmental relationships over time and produced a number of publications, including Water: culture and nature (Reaktion Press 2015). 

Since returning to the UK in 2012, to take up her current post at the IAS, a longstanding interest in interdisciplinarity has led to a major strand of reflexive research in this area. Collaborative work, with representatives of a range of UK funding councils, HEFCE and other interdisciplinary experts, produced Evaluating Interdisciplinary Research: a practical guide (with Tom McLeish, 2015). In 2017 Veronica was appointed to UKRI’s national Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel. Working with a number of former IAS Light Fellows, she recently completed an experiment in articulating an interdisciplinary conversation, co-editing a volume From the Lighthouse: interdisciplinary reflections on light (Routledge, 2018).

From 2013-17, Veronica served as the Chair of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth. Her recent research explores the notion of ‘re-imagined communities’, promoting theoretical approaches that reconceptualise human-non-human relations. She is currently working on a major comparative text considering different long-term trajectories in human-environment relationships. In 2017 she assisted the United Nations in exploring cultural values in relation to water, and developing some Principles for Water to underpin its sustainability goals. In 2019 she was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Research interests

  • Environmental anthropology
  • Water
  • Materiality
  • Interdisciplinarity

Research groups

Esteem Indicators

  • 2019: BBC Radio 3: Free Thinking, interview with Jaqueline Smith on ‘Water’
  • 2019: BBC Radio 3: March 31st. Free Thinking Festival, interview with Rana Mitter on ‘Emotion: 20 Words for Joy’. Sage Theatre, Gateshead.
  • 2019: BBC Radio 4: Interview on Aboriginal culture and Uluru. October 27th, 2019.
  • 2018: Expert advice for PBS Water series: The Molecule that Made Us’. Charlotte Lathane, Associate Producer, Passion Pictures. May 31st, 2018.
  • 2018: Interview with Matthew Reisz: Times Higher Education Supplement, Jan 18th, Thinking Big event at London University School of Advanced Study. Reported in ‘Interdisciplinarity and global view ‘priorities for humanities’’. Jan 20th, 2018.

Publications

Authored book

  • Strang, V. (Forthcoming). Water Beings: from nature worship to the current environmental crisis.
  • Strang, V. (2021). What Anthropologists Do. Revised Edition. London, New York: Routledge.
  • Strang, V. (2015). Water: nature and culture. Reaktion Books/University of Chicago Press.
  • Strang, V. (2009). What Anthropologists Do. Oxford, New York: Berg/Bloomsbury.
  • Strang, V. (2009). Gardening the World: agency, identity, and the ownership of water. New York & Oxford: Berghahn.
  • Strang, V. (2004). The Meaning of Water. Oxford, New York: Berg/Bloomsbury.
  • Strang, V. (1997). Uncommon Ground: cultural landscapes and environmental values. Berg.
  • Strang, V. (1988). Citizen's Guide to Environmental Assessment. Government of Ontario Press.
  • Strang, V. (1986). Acidification: Warning Signs, Ministry of the Environment. Toronto: Government of Ontario.

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

Edited Journal

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

  • Strang, V. (2008). Privatisation of Assets Never Cut and Dry. New Zealand Herald 13.
  • Strang, V. (2008). Owning Water. The University of Auckland News 5.
  • Strang, V. (2002). Water - the Concept. Water Magazine (No. 139/140).

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

  • Strang, V. (2017). A Winding Trail: following serpents, dragons and other water beings around the world.
  • Strang, V. & McLeish, T. (2015). How to value research that crosses more than one discipline. The Conversation
  • McLeish, T. & Strang, V. (2014). Interdisciplinary research must sit at the heart of universities. The Conversation

Other (Print)

Report

  • Strang, V. (2017). Contribution to Draft UN Preamble and Principles for Water. The Hague: United Nations High Level Panel on Water.
  • Strang, V. (2017). Valuing the Cultural and Spiritual Dimensions of Water. Report to the United Nations High-Level Panel on Water.
  • Strang, V (2012). Responses to Crown Counsel Cross-examination, Waitangi Tribunal, Maori Water Claim WAI 2358.
  • Strang, V (2012). Expert advice to Waitangi Tribunal, New Zealand, Maori Water Claim WAI 2537.
  • Strang, V. (2012). Comparative International Claims to Water and Water Management by Indigenous Peoples. Advisory report for Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of New Zealand Maori Council and other claimants, WAI 2357, WAI 2358, New Zealand.
  • Busse, M. & Strang, V. (2009). Taniwha Springs - Indigenous Rights and Interests in Water: comparative and international perspectives. advisory report for Ngā Puna Wai o Te Tokotoru, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Strang, V. (2007). A Conceptual Framework for UNESCO’s Ecohydrology Programme: Paper prepared for Scientific Advisory Committee, UNESCO International Ecohydrology Programme.
  • Strang, V. (2006). Social Ecohydrology: integrating the social and natural sciences, Research Paper prepared for Scientific Advisory Committee, UNESCO International Ecohydrology Programme.
  • Strang, V. (2001). Evaluating Water: cultural beliefs and values about water quality, use and conservation. London: Water UK.
  • Strang, V. (2001). Country Bla We: Kunjen Country on the Cape York Peninsula. North Queensland: Kowanyama Community Council.
  • Strang, V. (1996). Environmental Values and the EU Energy Label: a qualitative and quantitative analysis. Report to the Department of the Environment. Oxford: Energy and Environment Programme, Environmental Change Unit, Oxford University.
  • Strang, V. (1995). Cultural and Behavioural Issues in Domestic Energy Use. In Domestic Equipment and Carbon Dioxide Emissions (DECADE) Second Year Report, 1995. Oxford: Energy and Environment Programme, Environmental Change Unit, Oxford University.
  • Strang, V. (1995). 'The Adoption and Implementation of an Environmental Policy at Oxford University. Advisory paper to Oxford University Hebdomadal Council.
  • Strang, V. (1994). Behavioural Issues in Domestic Energy Use. In Domestic Equipment and Carbon Dioxide Emissions (DECADE) First Year Report, 1994. Oxford: Energy and Environment Programme, Environmental Change Unit, Oxford University.
  • Strang, V. (1994). Kunjen Country: Aboriginal landscape in the Alice-Mitchell Rivers National Park Area. North Queensland: Kowanyama Community Council.
  • Strang, V. (1993). Preliminary Report on the Cultural Mapping of the Alice-Mitchell Rivers National Park. North Queensland: Kowanyama Community Council.
  • Strang, V. (1988). Annual Report of the Environmental Assessment Board. Toronto: Government of Ontario Press.
  • Strang, V. (1985). Support Your Lake. Toronto: Government of Ontario Press.