Public defence: Multispecies design history - how do we incorporate the more-than-human into the human built environment?

Master Malin Kristine Graesse at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas will defend her dissertation Structures in the Stream: Fishways as design interventions in grey ecologies  for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD).

Doctoral candidate Malin Kristine Graesse, wall with text "det humanistiske fakultet"

Recent humanist scholarship has begun to question human exceptionalism. This has had implications for conventional humanist research. With the introduction of what has been referred to as the Anthropocene hypothesis and in light of the environmental and climatic crisis, scholars have focused their research interest towards the interconnectedness between the human and the external world. Under the umbrella of environmental humanities, Malin Kristine Graesse's PhD project seeks to investigate how design history, with its interest in objects, things and the artificial world, can contribute to bridging the gap between the built environment and more-than-human life forms. By zeroing in on fishways – infrastructure for fish in rivers – Graesse's dissertation draws on classic art and design history, urban planning, hydraulic engineering, fisheries engineering and biological sciences to show how the boundaries between the human made and the natural environment partake in complex historical networks. 

The dissertation centers on the fishway design research laboratory at the Bonneville dam in the 1950's, the Grand Rapids Fish Ladder Sculpture designed by artist Joseph Kinnebrew in the mid 1970's, and the fishway at the Lower waterfall at the Akerselva river in Oslo. By drawing on these case studies, Graesse shows that fishways - which are designed as interventions for restoring fragmented and broken ecosystems - not only aid keystone species such as salmon beyond obstacles, but broaden conventional understanding of nature and culture. In her dissertation, Graesse shows that functional fishways can be part of public art collections, materialization of eco-philosophy, and results of collaborations between engineers, artists, designers, biologists and legislators. Furthermore, Greasse draws attention to the the role of aesthetic experience in ecosystem restoration projects and the way extinction works as a driving force for extensive restoration projects. 

The dissertation is a monograph consisting of three case studies. The overarching argument is based on an ambition to integrate more-than-human animals into design historical research. 

Read the dissertation (pdf)

The defence is open to the public. It will also be possible to follow the defence online, a link to the livestream will be posted here.

Trial lecture

Designated topic: "Grey ecology and the ethics of extinction in fishway design"

Time and place: 17 August, 4:15 p.m., Georg Sverdrups hus, auditorium 2

The trial lecture is open to the public. It will also be possible to follow the trial lecture online, a link to the livestream will be posted here.

Evaluation committee

Professor Christina Cogdell, University of California, Davis (first opponent)

Associate Professor Even Smith Wergeland, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Professor Pasi Väliaho, University of Oslo

Chair of the defence

Head of Department Tor Egil Førland


Professor Kjetil Fallan, University of Oslo

Professor Aron Vinegar, University of Oslo

Published Aug. 5, 2022 9:25 AM - Last modified Aug. 5, 2022 9:52 AM