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Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures

Exploring humanity’s relationships with water in the ‘green-blue’ regions of the world, past, present and future.

Dr Briony McDonagh

Director of the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures

Briony McDonagh

Tel: +44 (0)1482 465865



More than 30% of the global population live within 100km of the sea, and estuaries and coastlines are home to many of the world’s largest cities. These are, and have always been, precarious as well as populous places, and coastal, estuarine and delta communities have long been shaped by both the opportunities and challenges of living ‘on the edge’.

The Challenge

Today, human-induced climate change is increasing both the likelihood and severity of floods and droughts. Coastal, estuarine and delta populations are particularly vulnerable in an uncertain future climate. People and societies must learn to ‘live with water’ and build resilience at the individual, local, regional, national and global scales. Engaging diverse communities and building resilience to water stresses and shocks are urgent societal challenges, with the most vulnerable often the least well informed about exposure and mitigation.

In studying humanity’s relationships with water in these critical ‘green-blue’ zones, we need to learn from the past, from multiple disciplines, and from Western, non-Western, and Indigenous water cultures. Doing so will foster new understandings of how humanity’s relationships with the environment needs to change in order to sustain the cities, communities, and cultures of these risky regions for the generations of tomorrow.

The Approach

The University of Hull Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures pioneers a new, humanities-led, interdisciplinary and transhistorical research area, the ‘green-blue humanities’.

It equips a new generation of PhD students to take this agenda forward, transforming our understanding of our relationships with water and shaping future research agendas, methods, and approaches within and between disciplines.

Watch this short film, giving an introduction to the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures.


Research strands 

Living With/out Water

Living With/out Water adopts interdisciplinary approaches to exploring how Western, non-Western and Indigenous communities have experienced, managed, and learned to live with and without water in risky green-blue environments from the earliest peoples to today’s coastal communities. This strand of our work focuses on the material and political implications of living with/out water, exploring how water has been governed and managed, gendered and racialised, and examining histories of risk and resilience in comparative perspective.


Imagining Water

Imagining Water examines the belief systems, folklores, and fictions that have arisen alongside, and in response to, experiences of living with water in coastal, estuarine, and delta communities, exploring water as a source of creativity that helps shape the identity of these water cultures worldwide, and throughout history. Embracing a range of media – from poetry to policy documents, film to music, Indigenous myths to video games – our research asks what these representations tell us about community and creative responses to living with water and the challenges and opportunities this involves.


Building Water Futures

Building Water Futures thinks forward through the arts and humanities to help better understand how communities can live with water in today’s uncertain climate futures. Working with high-risk communities in coastal zones and estuaries worldwide, we assess opportunities to engage communities with water challenges and increase uptake of resilience actions through community arts, learning histories, digital education, citizen inquiry methods and other creative solutions.

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  • To develop a highly original and significant new interdisciplinary research area – the green-blue humanities – that will interrogate cultural responses to, and understandings of, water in coastal, estuarine and delta regions globally.
  • To equip a new generation of researchers to take the green-blue humanities forward in future, adopting interdisciplinary perspectives on aspects of water cultures in ways that will shape the research agendas, theories, methods, and approaches of their own disciplines.
  • To bring innovative arts and humanities approaches to bear on the challenge of engaging diverse communities in building personal, local, national and global resilience to water stresses and shocks, today and for the future.


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Accelerating a net zero future. Improving health outcomes. Promoting justice and fairness for all. Living with water. Enhancing heritage and creative industries.

Our research impacts the world.

And you can be part of it.

Join our vibrant research community and help find solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.