The conference will focus on the following three themes in order to explore the interrelationship between practises and discourses of water, landscape and the state in southern Africa.
a) Water, landscape and the past
b) The urbanisation of water
c) Water, governance and development intervention
Although it has become commonplace to hear about pending threats to the world’s most critical natural resource – water, in recent years there has been a growing interest in the social, cultural and political roles of water. This broadening of interest beyond the limitations of hydrology, public engineering and irrigation planning has been reflected in a proliferation of works dealing with the complex relationships of water with society, culture, history and political organisation. David Mosse’s book The Rule of Water broke new ground by exploring the complexity of historically and culturally situated inter-relationships between irrigation, ‘the elementary facts of ecology’ and social and political organisation in India. Taking forward this carefully picked path between the pitfalls of environmental determinism and the extremes of social constructivism, the aim of this conference is to use water as a ‘conceptual lubricant’ to explore the inter-linkages between practises and discourses of the postcolonial state, and the cultural, environmental and experiential aspects of landscape. We seek to explore how practises and discourses of water and landscape are inevitably tied up with, and invoke, different ideas, imaginations and perceptions of what the postcolonial state is, should and could be in southern Africa.
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