Haoran Shi

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 10450

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Shi, Haoran (Stanford U.) "Infrastructure Heritage: Preservation, Maintenance, and the Long-Term Sustainability of the Iranian Qanats"

Increasingly, UNESCO has inscribed operational infrastructure onto the World Heritage List for preservation. However, can we adopt the same methods used for historical monuments to preserve ongoing infrastructure? Anthropological theory often considers infrastructure as ‘multi-temporal,’ and this is contradictory to heritage preservation which aims to capture a ‘static’ snapshot of the inscribed site. As a case study, I will investigate an underground irrigation system—recently designated as World Heritage Site—in Iran. This irrigation system—referred to as a qanat—has been running for 2,500 years. Will UNESCO’s preservation methods continue the use of qanats like what the qanat users have been doing for millennia? To address this question, I will first study the environmental processes that shape the qanat operation. I will use remote sensing, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and excavation to investigate three environmental processes—and their temporalities—that are relevant to qanats: seismic activities, groundwater fluctuations, and agriculture. I will then use ethnographic and archaeological methods to investigate how qanat users—past and present—have addressed the multi-temporality of these environmental processes and sustain the qanats’ continued use. Lastly, I compare the preservation methods with these episodes of successful maintenance, offering ways in which preservation methods can address the multi-temporality of infrastructure.