Stefan Helmreich is Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of
From the Waterwolf to the Sand Motor: Domesticating Waves in the Netherlands
The chapter offers an ethnographic itinerary around the Netherlands, a country shaped by centuries-old endeavors to hold waves back from a land situated below sea level. Waves, long interpreted as forces of a wild, enemy nature, have come to be read as entities that might be rewritten, domesticated, and made into allies in sculpting resilient environmental infrastructure. The chapter introduces, in miniature, recurring themes that have to do with the historical matrices out of which wave science arrives, with folklore, record keeping, physical scale models, computer simulations, remote sensing instruments, field measurement campaigns, and visions of waves as natural objects yoked to projects of cultural control.