Nataya Friedan

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 9816

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Friedan, Nataya (Stanford U.) "Oil and Water; Flood-craft and Taboo in Houston"

NATAYA FRIEDAN, then a graduate student at Stanford University, Stanford, California, was awarded funding in April 2019 to aid research on ‘Oil and Water; Flood-craft and Taboo in Houston,’ supervised by Dr. Sylvia Yanagisako. From 2019-2020, twelve months of ethnographic and archival research were conducted in Houston, Texas on the political life of scientific evidence during the intensified flood infrastructure planning process post-Hurricane Harvey. The researcher spent six months embedded at the Harris County Flood Control offices doing observations and interviews as well as archival research. The researcher attended city, county and state government meetings on the flooding problem as well as private sector convenings amongst the development, finance and oil and gas communities. The researcher conducted 46 semi- structured interviews on climate change evidence with engineers, lawyers and business professionals involved or evoked in flood infrastructure planning and compared their public speech with their personal interviews. Through ethnographic observations and interviews, the researcher documented the use of language and rhetorical strategy developed and disseminated during decades of industry funded misinformation campaigns. The researcher also conducted extensive visual ethnography across Texas documenting the landscapes of an energy transition well under way. The researcher followed the enactment and dissolution of a taboo around causal claims attributing more and worse flooding to climate change to understand the perceivability of climate change in the context of public lies.