Kimberley Thomas conducts interdisciplinary research on the politics and governance of international rivers. Drawing on theories and methods in political ecology, critical geopolitics, and environmental history, her work interrogates the relationships between land use decisions and human vulnerability to environmental change at multiple scales. While Bangladesh is often framed as a victim of unfortunate geography and climate change, her 2015 dissertation, The River-Border Complex: Governing Flows in South Asia, identified contemporary conflicts along the Ganges River as networked artifacts of imperial capitalism, the violent rupture of the Indian subcontinent, under-development, and localized social vulnerability to environmental hazards. As a postdoctoral fellow, she will elaborate her conceptual framework, "the river-border complex," through comparative analyses of river systems in North America and Southeast Asia.
2015—2016 Forum on Sex
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Humanities and Humanistic Sciences, 2015-2017
Environmental Science and South Asian Studies
The River-Border Complex
International rivers are conventionally understood simply as watercourses that cross national boundaries. Such uncomplicated frameworks perpetuate problematic ideas about the relevant scales (international) and actors (states) involved in international river conflicts and crises. As an alternative to this classical framing, Thomas reconceptualizes international rivers as synergistic, multifaceted, and ongoing interactions between rivers and borders. Her theoretical concept of "the river-border complex" takes an innovative approach to addressing intractable transboundary river conflicts by demonstrating, for example, how asymmetrical power dynamics hinge on historical contingencies and discursive practices. Such power dynamics may therefore be contested and reconfigured to establish more equitable systems of resource access and use. Her book project entails a comparative study of three river deltas (Ganges, Red, Columbia) that engages questions of scale, power, identity, security, conflict, and environmental change. The project contributes to ongoing academic debates about transboundary watercourses and offers support for future policy decisions regarding freshwater resources.