CfP POLLEN20 –Waterscape, hydrosocial territory and other water words. Theorising space in the political ecology of water: Opportunities and challenges

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

If you would like to contribute, please send abstracts (250 words maximum) to Silvia Flaminio ( and Gaële Rouillé-Kielo ( by 15th November, 2019.

Session description

Over the past two decades, various concepts have been put forward by political ecologists to consider the connections between water, space and the social sphere and to acknowledge the influence of power relationships in the shaping of space. The concept of “waterscape” was introduced in political ecology in the late 1990s by Erik Swyngedouw (1999). Previously, it was extensively used in the fields of environmental psychology (Herzog, 1985) and of water history (Hundley, 1987). In political ecology, “waterscape” addresses the hybrid (natural and social) characteristics of a specific spatial configuration. It is also used to elaborate on the “hydrosocial cycle” (Linton and Budds 2014) described as “a mix of hydrological and social processes” (Linton 2010) – waterscapes being considered as “the geographical temporary outcomes of these processes” (Bouleau 2014).

More recently, the concept of “hydrosocial territory” (Boelens et al. 2016) has gained momentum in the anglophone sphere of political ecology and beyond. The concept takes into account “the contested imaginary and social-environmental materialization of a spatially bound multi-scalar network” (ibid.). By focusing on networks, the diversity of “hydro-territorial regimes” (Hommes, Boelens, and Maat 2016) shaped by groups of actors is acknowledged.

While both these concepts -“waterscape” and “hydrosocial territory”- are increasingly used in the literature, so far little attention has been paid to the (distinct) theorisation of space they convey. Against this background, this panel seeks to open a discussion on the opportunities and challenges they represent in a context of competing, sometimes contested, visions of water and of its future among groups of actors.

Therefore, we invite contributions which address this issue, building both on empirical and theoretical perspectives, such as:

  • Papers focusing on the development and use of these concepts. What perspectives have they brought to the theorisation of space in water studies? To what extent do they offer stimulating frameworks to reflect on case studies, such as those which show the unequal distribution of power among actors? Are these frameworks adequate or rather too “encompassing” (Mollinga, 2014) to conceptualise the varying and complex outcomes of the relationships between societies, water and space?
  • Contributions that discuss the fruitful but complex dialogue between concepts reflecting on the social-water-space nexus and approaches relying on differing epistemologies. How are concepts such as “waterscape” or “hydrosocial territory” articulated with the notions of space, place, networks and territories used in social sciences and whose definitions vary along with different epistemological traditions? How can new perspectives developed in other linguistic or national contexts (see Loftus 2017) help enrich the theorisation of space in the political ecology of water?
  • Studies relying on these concepts to analyse empirical data in an effort to make sense of contemporary spatial dynamics entrenched in situated contexts and/or linked to the implementation of conservation projects (PES programmes, urban water demand management, etc.) or infrastructure plans (water supply, irrigation or hydro-power schemes, etc. ) in urban or rural areas.


Boelens, Rutgerd, Jaime Hoogesteger, Erik Swyngedouw, Jeroen Vos, and Philippus Wester. 2016. ‘Hydrosocial Territories: A Political Ecology Perspective’. Water International 41 (1): 1–14.

Bouleau, Gabrielle. 2014. ‘The Co-Production of Science and Waterscapes: The Case of the Seine and the Rhône Rivers, France’. Geoforum 57: 248–57.

Herzog, Thomas R. 1985. ‘A Cognitive Analysis of Preference for Waterscapes’. Journal of Environmental Psychology 5 (3): 225–41.

Hommes, Lena, Rutgerd Boelens, and Harro Maat. 2016. ‘Contested Hydrosocial Territories and Disputed Water Governance: Struggles and Competing Claims over the Ilisu Dam Development in Southeastern Turkey’. Geoforum 71: 9–20.

Hundley, Norris. 1987. ‘California’s Original Waterscape: Harmony & Manipulation’. California History 66 (1): 2–11.

Linton, Jamie. 2010. What Is Water?: The History of a Modern Abstraction. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Linton, Jamie, and Jessica Budds. 2014. ‘The Hydrosocial Cycle: Defining and Mobilizing a Relational-Dialectical Approach to Water’. Geoforum 57: 170–80.

Loftus, Alex. 2019. ‘Political Ecology I: Where Is Political Ecology?’ Progress in Human Geography 43 (1): 172–82.

Mollinga, Peter P. 2014. ‘Canal Irrigation and the Hydrosocial Cycle: The Morphogenesis of Contested Water Control in the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal, South India’. Geoforum 57: 192–204.

Swyngedouw, Erik. 1999. ‘Modernity and Hybridity: Nature, Regeneracionismo, and the Production of the Spanish Waterscape, 1890-1930’. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 89 (3): 443–65.

CfP POLLEN20 – Irrigation issues in emerging economies

The Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organisers

This session is being organized by Adnan Mirhanoglu ( and Maarten Loopmans ( Please submit abstracts between 250 and 500 words and full contact details to both organizers by the 28 of October 2019 15 of November 2019

Session description

In countries like China, India, Turkey, Brazil, Ethiopia, rapid social and economic changes are affecting the countryside. Rural-to-urban migration, agricultural modernization and the emergence of new economic sectors are all changing the demography and socio-economic relations in rural areas. Whereas new large scale irrigation projects create social, environmental and political tensions on their own (Madramootoo and Fyles, 2010; Boelens, Shah & Bruins, 2019), traditional irrigation systems are equally facing new challenges, as demands for water change, climate change is affecting availability, new water users appear on the scene, and political and infrastructural changes are demanding new forms of water governance (Gany, Sharma & Singh, 2019). In this session, we want to discuss and theorize the particular issues, conflicts and challenges related to irrigation water governance in emerging economies.

Irrigation systems have always been fraught with power imbalances and conflicts of interest, and poses particular theoretical challenges to theory-making (.e.g Ostrom & Gardner, 1993). Present-day socio-economic  transitions exacerbate these tensions, and presents us with new practical and theoretical dilemma’s (Playan, Sagardoy & Castillo, 2018; Ahlborg & Nightingale, 2018;) which we hope to discuss in this session. We invite both theoretical and empirical papers on irrigation governance and economic expansion in emerging economies. We are particularly keen on discussing multiscalar analyses linking interpersonal, water network and national/global political economy. The following topics (non-exhaustive) can be considered:

  • small and large scale irrigation infrastructures and water justice
  • head- and tail-ender conflicts under global market pressure
  • gendered and racialized politics of irrigation
  • infrastructural modernization and changing power relations
  • climate change, land use change and irrigation politics


Ahlborg, H. and A.J. Nightingale 2018. Theorizing power in political ecology: the where of power in resource governance projects. Journal of Political Ecology 25: 381-401.

Boelens, R., A. Shah & B. Bruins (2019) Contested knowledges: large dams and mega-hydraulic development, Water 11: 416-443.

Gany, A. H. A., Sharma, P., & Singh, S. (2019). Global Review of Institutional Reforms in the Irrigation Sector for Sustainable Agricultural Water Management, Including Water Users’ Associations. Irrigation and Drainage68(1), 84-97.

Harris, L. M. (2006). Irrigation, gender, and social geographies of the changing waterscapes of southeastern Anatolia. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space24(2), 187-213.

Madramootoo, C. A., & Fyles, H. (2010). Irrigation in the context of today’s global food crisis. Irrigation and Drainage: The journal of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage59(1), 40-52.

Ostrom, Elinor, Roy Gardner. (1993) “Coping with Assymetries in the Commons: Self-Governing Irrigation Systems Can Work”. Journal of Economic Perspectives – Vol 7, Number 4, pp.93-112.

Playán, E., Sagardoy, J., & Castillo, R. (2018). Irrigation governance in developing countries: Current problems and solutions. Water10(9), 1118.

Köpke, S., Withanachchi, S. S., Pathiranage, R., Withanachchi, C. R., & Ploeger, A. (2019). Social–ecological dynamics in irrigated agriculture in dry zone Sri Lanka: a political ecology. Sustainable Water Resources Management5(2), 629-637.


CfP POLLEN20 – Political ecologies of urban water beyond the pipes

Deadline extended!

The Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organiser

Natasha Cornea (University of Birmingham). Please send abstracts of 250 words or less to  by October 25th by November 10th.

Session description

Over the last two decades (Urban) political ecologists have given significant attention the fragmented, complex and power-infused nature of urban water infrastructures and the governing practices that shape urban hydroscapes. In particular, circulated and/or commoditised drinking water has received significant attention, revealing the multi-scalar processes that shape access to and the control of urban water flows. Far less attention has been paid to theorising the power relations that shape of other urban waters. However, in recent years a rich set of case studies on urban ponds/lakes (Cornea et al 2016, Drew 2019, D’Souza & Nagendra  2011), riverscapes (Follmann 2016, Dahake 2018), wetlands (Campion & Owusu-Boateng 2013), and waste and flood water infrastructures (Batubara et al 2018, Zimmer 2015) has begun to emerge. This session aims to recognise the heterogeneous nature of water (Budds & Sultana 2013) and to contribute to a more nuanced and complex understanding of urban hydroscapes by engaging with water beyond the pipes. Empirical or theoretical contributions on the topic that engage with the Global South or Global North are invited.


Follmann, Alexander. 2016. Governing Riverscapes. Urban Environmental Change along the River Yamuna in Delhi, India. Stuttgart: Steiner.

Batubara, B., Kooy, M. and Zwarteveen, M., 2018. Uneven Urbanisation: Connecting Flows of Water to Flows of Labour and Capital Through Jakarta’s Flood Infrastructure. Antipode50(5), pp.1186-1205.

Budds, J. and Sultana, F., 2013. Exploring political ecologies of water and development. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space31(2), pp.275-279.

Campion, Benjamin, and Godfred Owusu-Boateng. 2013. The Political Ecology of Wetlands in Kumasi, Ghana.  International Journal of Environment and Bioenergy 7 (2):108-128.

D’Souza, R., and H. Nagendra. 2011. Changes in Public Commons as a Consequence of Urbanization: The Agara Lake in Bangalore, India.  Environmental Management 47 (5):840-850. doi: 10.1007/s00267-011-9658-8.

Dahake, S. Taming Godavari River: Navigating through religious, developmental, and environmental narratives. WIREs Water. 2018; 5:e1297.

Drew, Georgina. 2019. Political Ecologies of Water Capture in an Indian ‘Smart City’, Ethnos, DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2018.1541918

Zimmer, Anna. 2015. “Urban Political Ecology in Megacities: The Case of Delhi’s Waste Water.” In Urban Development Challenges, Risks and Resilience in Asian Mega Cities, edited by R.B. Singh, 119-139. Springer.

Book release [open access]: Virtuous Waters

Virtuous Waters: Mineral Springs, Bathing and Infrastructure in Mexico

Casey Walsh

University of California Press

This book is available to read open access via Luminos.

virtuous waters

Virtuous Waters is a pathbreaking and innovative study of bathing, drinking and other everyday engagements with a wide range of waters across five centuries in Mexico. Casey Walsh uses political ecology to bring together an analysis of shifting scientific, religious and political understandings of waters and a material history of social formations, environments, and infrastructures. The book shows that while modern concepts and infrastructures have come to dominate both the hydrosphere and the scholarly literature on water, longstanding popular understandings and engagements with these heterogeneous liquids have been reproduced as part of the same process. Attention to these dynamics can help us comprehend and confront the water crisis that is coming to a head in the twenty-first century.

“Reminds us that, within wider homogenizing discourses, there are multiple unique waters, whose particular ‘virtues’ are central in defining how people have imagined, understood, and interacted with them over time.” VERONICA STRANG, author of Gardening the World: Agency, Identity, and the Ownership of Water

“Plunges readers into seldom explored depths of the cultural world of water in central Mexico, providing a refreshing approach that goes beyond infrastructure to immerse readers in in routine practices of bathing, washing, and drinking water and their links to colonialism, public health, sexuality, tourism, and neoliberalism.” JOHN SOLURI, author of Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States

CASEY WALSH is Associate Professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara. He is the author of Building the Borderlands: A Transnational History of Irrigated Cotton along the Mexico-Texas Border.


Post-doc opportunity: political ecologies of water infrastructure

12-month post-doc position based in the Geography Department, Trinity College Dublin
The research project is based in Ireland and looks at Group Water Schemes (rural, community-managed water infrastructures). As well as learning more about how these localized water systems have developed and responded to changing political economic, demographic and environmental conditions and pressures, the aim of the project is to generate theoretical insights concerning the material politics of water infrastructure more generally (and thus relates to a broad body of infrastructure literature coming from political ecology, science and technology studies, and anthropology in recent years). While a research background in water and/or infrastructure is desirable it is not essential.
Post Summary
The EPA-funded research project WISDOM (Group Water Schemes: Community Infrastructure for Sustainable Development) based in the Department of Geography, Trinity College Dublin, is seeking to appoint a Research Fellow (Post-Doctoral Researcher) working in the fields of political ecology and/or science and technology studies, preferably with a research interest in the core themes of water and/or infrastructure. The position is offered for 12 months on a Full-Time basis. The WISDOM project will examine the phenomenon of Group Water Schemes in Ireland within the context of: (1) complex political economic pressures, regulatory demands, and changing environmental conditions; (2) current theoretical debates on the material politics of infrastructures within political ecology, science and technology studies, and anthropology. Group Water Schemes are community-managed water infrastructures that provide drinking water to approximately 7% of the Irish population. While Group Water Schemes are often understood as a minor, even residual component of Ireland’s water system, this project approaches them as potentially important sites for re-thinking key questions relating to the political ecologies of water and infrastructure.
The position starts on 31st March and closing date for applications is 3rd January.
Further information is available here or email pbresnih[at] with any questions.