Slippery Subjects: The Material Politics of Water

Hi there,

I’m co-organising a session at the annual 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) meeting (Oct 9-12 2013 in San Diego) on the topic of politics in the context of water management. Matthew Kearnes and I have put this together (mostly Matt) and we’d love any comments or suggestions you might have.

The outline for the session is below, including a list of the presenters: Judy Motion, Jeremy J. Schmidt, and Susie Pratt. We’re also really pleased to have Prof. Wiebe Bijker as a discussant. Here are the Abstracts: The Material Politics of Water.

Slippery Subjects: The Material Politics of Water 

It is increasingly being recognised that water is “intensely political” and that the politics of water are “implicated in contested relationships of power and authority” (Bakker, 2012, 616). Issues concerned with water quality, purification and the socio-technological infrastructures of water distribution have been at the centre of a range of contemporary environmental and social disputes. The resource economies of water, coupled with the increasing privatisation of water reserves, are also central to the development of new forms of governance, administrative practices, and technologies for provisioning. Water is simultaneously an object of state control and management whilst the materiality of water exceeds practices of political containment.

This session explores the material politics of water by focusing on the construction of water as an object of public participation, consultation and education. In light of a series of technological risk controversies in areas such as water purification and the reuse of wastewater government authorities have begun to employ techniques drawn from public education and science communication in order to effect behavioural and attitudinal changes. This session constitutes a critical assessment on these developments, featuring papers that document the construction of water as an object of public deliberation and political negotiation. The session traces modes of expert and lay reasoning in the socio-technologies of public participation and consultation, together with the coproduction of water and institutions of public and civic authority.

Session Chairs:

  1. Matthew Kearnes (Environmental Humanities Programme, University of New South Wales);
  2. Brian Cook (Department of Resource Management & Geography, School of Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne

Speakers:

  1. Brian Cook (Department of Resource Management & Geography, School of Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne)
  2. Judy Motion (Environmental Humanities Programme, University of New South Wales)
  3. Jeremy J. Schmidt (Social Anthropology, Harvard University)
  4. Susie Pratt (Journalism Media Research Centre, University of New South Wales)

Discussant

  1. Prof. Wiebe E. Bijker (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University)

3 Replies to “Slippery Subjects: The Material Politics of Water”

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