Border Ecologies Network

'Weaponizing a River' – part of Hydrology of the Powerless

Authors: Stefanos Levidis and Ifor Duncan
Region: Greece / Turkey border
Image: The river Ardas near its confluence with the Evros-Meriç in the Karaağaç Triangle, February 2019, Ifor Duncan and Stefanos Levidis

This collaborative project investigates the mobilisation of the riverine ecology of the Evros, Meriç, Martisa river - “land” border between Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria – as a bordering technology. This Fluvial Frontier is weighted with riverine crossings and systematic illegal pushbacks at the border of the EU. Bolstered by the conception of rivers as ‘arcifinious’ – geophysical characteristics deemed to be inherently defensive or ‘fit to keep the enemy out’ – this frontier water is characterised by regular flooding, unregulated pollution, and deadly velocities. We conceive of this as a relational frontier accommodating the entire watery ecosystem of the Evros flood zone as border infrastructure: from the thalweg (central course), through the mud of the water meadow, meteorology, the dampness of clothes worn by border crossers, flood defence walls that skirt the military buffer zone (Zoni Asfaleias Prokalypsis (ZAP)). We consider how the river’s own complex agency both resists the abstract and static border demarcation of 1926, through accretion and avulsion, whilst ultimately being co-opted into military calculations and policy decisions that accentuate the river’s treacherous characteristics in the production of increasingly perilous migration routes. The state’s impunity is in part produced by the ZAP’s folding of the excess represented by floodwaters into the excesses of sovereign territorial power. Here beatings are customary, official documentation is thrown into the river and, after seasonal floods, bodies wash up in the accretions of the border.

This research includes hydrophone recordings, interviews, field notes, and other time-based media.