The International Water History Association (IWHA)
2nd conference, 10th -12th August 2001
University of Bergen, Norway
Abstracts 1st December 2000
The International Water History Association (IWHA) 2nd
conference will bring together researchers from different
disciplines who all study the character and role of freshwater
in history and development. It is organised in co-operation
with UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme.
While freshwater is a true universal and no human being and no
society can exist without it, its natural characteristics vary
extremely from place to place and from time to time. Societies have
managed and harnessed water in various ways with various implications both for water resources and for society. This
conference will explore these variations in man/water relations in
time and space, and examine why some societies have apparently
succeeded, while others have failed to secure a sound management
system of their fresh water.
The conference will have three main aims:
to present different empirical research findings and to create aforum for theoretical discussions on how the relationship between
man and water can be analysed and understood in the most fruitful
to produce relevant input into present day debates about issues
including the control and ownership of water, water conflicts and water pollution.
to discuss content and profile of a multi-volume World Water
History planned by UNESCO in cooperation with IWHA. The
conference will offer opportunities for researchers to present
perspectives on water history useful for the book series.
We are inviting papers on the following themes (These themes are provisional at the moment - the organisers will welcome suggestions for individual papers and sessions):
The political economy of water – ownership and control. This session will deal with the changing histories of water as a private or common good. In what way has water been seen as a commodity standing outside "normal" economic theories? It will also be open to papers examining how regional and national control of water resources have been embedded into patterns of economic and political control within and across national boundaries, and has
stirred up territorial disputes.
Images of water (in religion, myths, literature and art). This session will deal with different aspects of the cultural
construction of water – from ancient days until contemporary time.
We are calling for papers on for example the role of water in the
world religions, myths of rivers as a source of life, and water as an
object of art. Other themes could be the free flowing river as a
state of equilibrium or as a chaotic and violent nature meant to be
controlled by man.
History of hydrology and water control.
This session will especially deal with the development of
hydrological sciences and water controlling technology. We are not
only interested in dam building and water regulation technology. We
are also inviting papers on changes in and effects from irrigation
and drainage technology etc. The session will encourage
comparative perspectives on irrigation and drainage systems, both
regarding technology, institutions and policy.
Narratives on the river and the dam. This session will discuss the harnessed river in a social construction
perspective. What stories do we tell about free flowing, or
harnessed rivers? Should this history be written as a history of
progress or as a history of failure? The narratives have varied from
a river lost to the rebirth of a new river or the remaking of a new
nature. The narratives have also been written in a perspective of
distribution of power (The Conquered River) or in ecological
perspective (The Devastated River). How will the stories that we
tell about man and the river influence the way we interpret rivers in
the 21st century?
The engineering of water systems – engineers, entrepreneurs and bureaucrats. This session will examine the cultures, traditions and power of those designing and constructing water systems. It will, for example, look at engineers with reference to their aesthetic and
technical influences, and their relationship to political power
structures. It will also, for example, examine the entrepreneurial
capabilities and goals of individuals, from private sector firms, or
government departments, who conceived or guided the construction of water systems.
"Water and man" relations in science. This session will deal with how the relationship man/water has been understood and explained through the centuries and by contemporary scientists in all kinds of disciplines and traditions.
History of water, sanitation and health. In this session studies of water and health will be presented by a broad focus on water borne diseases and their vectors. We also call for papers that deal with the relationship between epidemics and water and how societies have worked to secure clean water to
stem epidemics. This session will also deal with changes in water
quality, and how these changes can be seen related to social
developments. We also call for papers discussing the
understandings – both contemporary and historical – of the concept of clean/polluted water.
Water, poverty and social development. This session will deal with development of the modern megalopolis and the water and sewage question and how clean water can be made available for the poor. Important changes are taken place in the distribution and control of water for household consumption. In
some big cities the water issue has caused political turmoil, even
street-fighting. How does the privatisation wave in water
distribution affect social relations, political systems and the water
supply system? How does lack of water and poor distribution
systems affect development and development in rural areas of the
so-called "Third World"?
Freshwater and the coastal zone – integrated and ecological
management. The main focus will be put on conflicts between user-interests,especially interrelated problems of freshwater, estuarine and marine areas. Both examples of how conflicts have been coped with
historically, and more recently evolved problems and opportunities
will be addressed. We also call for papers discussing principles for
management of freshwater resources, estuarine and marine areas,
as in the integrated and ecological approach in the new EU Water
Resources Directive. Finally, attention will also be paid to the
development of environmental goals and planning tools of
interrelated fresh water, estuarine and marine areas.
Regional waters in a historical perspective. The conference will organise parallel sessions on water issues in a
regional perspective (Asia, Middle East and Africa, Europe,
America). Regional characteristics and different experiences and
possibilities of human exploitation of water resources will be
highlighted. The aim is to stimulate regional research collaboration
and improve transfer of knowledge on man–water relations.
Water and Civilization. Why History is Vital to Reframing
Current Water Policy Debates. The point with this session would be to reflect on how and why history is important to current water policy debates. The panel will include water policy practitioners with expertise in history of water
and historians, and be led by the editor in chief of Water Policy,
Jerome Delli Priscoli.
Invited key-note speakers:
Professor Fekri Hassan, University College London, UK
Professor Christian Pfister, Bern University, Switzerland
Professor em. John Opie, USA
Professor Donald Worster, University of Kansas, USA
General Secretary Andras Szollosi-Nagy, IHP, UNESCO
Abstract (250 words) sent to contact person by 1. December
2000 (see below). The conference papers will be edited by an
international editorial committee and subsequently published. In
connection with the conference we will organise a book exhibition
on water related research. We will invite participants to send the
organising committee leaflets about reports and books published on
the conference topic. Posters are welcome.
The first formal meeting of the International Water History
Association will take place at the Bergen conference. The meeting
will include election of officials, discussion on further conference
plans etc. Membership of IWHA will be possible to sign at the
Bergen conference. More information about IWHA on our web page
It is envisaged that travel support will be available for selected
speakers. It is the intention of the organisers to target this support
towards speakers from universities and institutions which do not
normally provide sufficient resources to fund extensive foreign
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, and the capital of the
Scandinavian rain coast. It is also a commercial centre which was
historically one of the Hanseatic ports with strong maritime trading
links to all parts of the world. Seven mountains surround it and the
city is renowned for its beauty. Bergen is also noted for being the
birthplace of Edvard Grieg whose music reflects the natural
environment; mountains, fjords, but also running water everywhere.
The location of the conference hall, Bergen Kongress Senter, is
Summer holiday on the western coast of Norway?
The conference organisers have managed to negotiate with local
hotels a good deal for accompanying persons. Bergen and the
Norwegian West Coast with its mountains, ocean and fjords will be
an experience. (Have a look at these pages:www.bergen-guide.com/ and home.no.net/rostrand/)
Conference Organising Committee on behalf of IWHA:
Professor Terje Tvedt, University of Bergen
Professor Petter Larsson, University of Bergen
Dr. Eva Jakobsson, Rogaland Research , Stavanger
Abstracts: 1. December 2000
Conference programme: January 2001
Papers: 1. July 2001
Conference: 10.-12. August 2001
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