Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University
Friederike Gesing

Friederike Gesing

f.gesing (at)

Friederike Gesing is a social/cultural anthropologist currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at artec Sustainability Research Center, University of Bremen. She also co-founded the Bremen NatureCultures Lab. She was a visiting research fellow with the Harvard STS Program during the 2012-2013 academic year.  While at Harvard, she was writing up her ethnography on emerging forms of coastal hazard protection in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Her work focused on so-called “soft” approaches of dealing with coastal erosion which are commonly framed as “working with, not against nature”. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Bremen’s Department of Social Sciences in 2015. 

Her book Working with Nature in Aotearoa New Zealand: An Ethnography of Coastal Protection will be published in June 2016.

Friederike carried out her doctoral research as a member of the interdisciplinary research training group INTERCOAST (Integrated Coastal-Zone and Shelf-Sea Research) in collaboration with Waikato University, Hamilton (NZ). In 2010/11, she spent 14 months in Aotearoa/New Zealand doing multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork. In the context of climate and coastal change, her work is following different trajectories of a paradigmatic shift towards dune restoration and soft engineering techniques.

Ensuing extensive participant observation, Friederike conducted interviews with “Coast Care” volunteers and dune restoration professionals, engineers, scientists, house owners, political activists, tangata whenua and council representatives, surfers and businesspeople. In her thesis, the complex assemblage of human and non-human actors, technologies and things, knowledge practices and discourses encountered in the field will be analyzed to show how soft coastal protection materializes as a discourse and practice of “working with nature”.

Friederike has studied European Ethnology and Gender Studies at Humboldt University Berlin and at the University of Sussex, UK and received her M.A. (Magistra Artium) from Humboldt University Berlin in 2009. Her main research interests are human-nature relationships (social natures/naturecultures) and technology and/as culture, as well as the role of ethnographic methods and anthropological theory in this interdisciplinary field of study.



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