Theses Master's

Living with Water: Adaptation processes, heritage conservation, and conflicting values

Gaikwad, Shivali

Heritage sites are constantly changing due to natural and social processes. Climate change research and predictions indicate that the pace will only accelerate in the future, especially in the coastal areas. Living with current weather conditions involves adapted lifestyles of communities that are linked to actions of individuals, societies and governments worldwide. The historic preservation community is now presented with complex issues of considering and adapting to climate change and its lasting effects, which will significantly influence decision-making and heritage policies. These issues raise important questions about the role that individual and societal values play in adapting to climate change: How do adaptation measures taken by some affect the values of others? In the case of value conflicts, whose values should be prioritized? What are the challenges and limits to adaptation processes in the context of culture and livelihoods? Ultimately, it is important to identify adaptation strategies that acknowledge and address a spectrum of values with governance based on shared cultural practices, ethics, justice and equity considerations.

The object of this thesis is to examine how an understanding of past impacts on heritage-related livelihoods from rising waters and erosion can help design and operationalize future interventions in the era of climate change. It looks at adaptation as a social process with implications for economic and political stability as well as culture, among many other things; with a specific focus on traditional knowledge systems and governance. This is developed through an examination of a primary case study on Majuli, a river island in Assam, India. There is a difference between how heritage is defined and how it is protected, and this thesis is about realizing that in communities like Majuli there is not only a tradition of dealing with threats, but also about dealing with fluctuating weather and water conditions. It deals with a history of adaptation, and skills and traditions that have built and evolved in response to harsh weather conditions. In the era of climate change, there has been a static approach when deciding what heritage is, though in reality it is dynamic. This thesis aims at exploring how to reconcile these incompatible concepts of adaptation traditions.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for GaikwadShivali_GSAPPHP_2019_Thesis.pdf GaikwadShivali_GSAPPHP_2019_Thesis.pdf application/pdf 6.14 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Avrami, Erica C.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 24, 2019