LMIC Meaker Visiting Professor Philippe Foret, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

Philippe Foret Image

Feasibility Study of the Atlas of Water and Peace in Central Asia Project

12 March – 12 April 2018


Dr Forêt is a human geographer with a PhD degree awarded by the University of Chicago for a dissertation on late imperial China. His ac‐tivities and those of his teams have focused on scientific expeditions, Sino‐European exchanges in the art and sciences, the history of the geosciences, and the long‐term interactions of nature with culture in Asia. Dr. Forêt is a member of the Society of Fellows of the Rachel Carson Center at Ludwig‐Maximilians University in Munich, and holds a courtesy appointment in envi‐ronmental studies at the University of Zurich. He co‐directs “Environmental Humanities Switzerland,” a program of the Swiss Academic Society for Envi‐ronmental Research and Ecology that he founded in 2013. Dr Forêt super‐vises the international program on water and peace at Nazarbayev Universi‐ty where he is currently professor (full) of environmental history. With sup‐port from the Kazakh government, he is leading two interdisciplinary pro‐jects: the Atlas of Sacred Geography in Kazakhstan, and the Atlas of Water and Peace in Central Asia. The University of Chicago Press has accepted his proposal on the history of climate research along the Silk Road, which will be his sixth book. 


The governments of Central Asia have recognized that mapping tools can deliver answers to fundamental questions on the relationship between society and the environment. Reference maps are especially useful in times of rapid, unexpected, and potentially disastrous changes. Ka‐zakhstan has given a priority to research on “sacred geography” in state building while the United Kingdom has expressed its intention to strengthen cooperation and peace in Central Asia. Our thematic atlas will combine these political interests. It will refer to the British‐Kazakh joint statement of July 2013 on coopera‐tion in science, technology, and space activities, and highlight the contributions announced at the Blue Peace conference in Central Asia of June 2017. This project continues and amplifies two atlases that Nazarbayev University has conceived alone: the Atlas of the Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan and the Atlas of Disaster Management and Resilience of Kazakhstan. The third atlas in this series will inform education, environment, and development policies, and address concerns for land and water management, community identity, and historical heritage. We will follow an interdisciplinary approach and build an interactive web atlas in cooper‐ation with international experts and institutions. The Atlas of Water and Peace in Central Asia will fill a gap in our knowledge of the subcontinent by displaying the rich complexity of interactions between water, settle‐ments, sustainability, governance, and society. Data on past climate and civilizations will inform our data‐bank; in return, our search engine and maps will inform users on current and future trends in the geography of water. The resulting atlas will make available online information on the sustainable use of cultural and natural resources, and help prepare the subcontinent to the consequences of global warming.

During his stay, Dr Forêt will be hosted by Professor Paul Bates (Geographical Sciences).