Call for Papers: Interdisciplinary Workshop on Water, Technology and the Nation-State, The University of Manchester

Deadline for applications: May 13, 2016
Event date: October 28, 2016

Water is a quintessential component for life and for the development of societies. Water is also an irreplaceable and transient resource, which crosses political boundaries in the form of rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers. Due to its unique nature, governments tend to perceive and portray water as a national asset constituting an integral part of “the homeland”. Just like space, territory and society can be socially and politically constructed by a national elite to assert its power (Swyngedouw, 2007). This is also the case for the management of water resources. As a result, the construction of a large hydraulic infrastructure, such as for instance a major dam or a canal, can be surrounded by a rhetorical discourse that emphasises its contribution to a prosperous future and to the realisation of national goals while nurturing national development and progress. This process can thus overlap with the formation of a national identity to the extent that a dam comes to symbolize the nation (Menga, 2015).

The aim of this workshop is to further our understanding of the complex and often hidden connection between water and the nation building process, here defined as the set of policies aimed at creating a common national identity and a sense of patriotism and loyalty toward the state.

The workshop will be opened by a keynote from Prof Erik Swyngedouw, University of Manchester, titled “Not a Drop of Water...: State, Modernity and the Production of Nature in Spain, 1998-2010”.

With a view to a subsequent publication in a journal's special issue, we invite both empirically grounded and theoretical critical work from a wide range of disciplines (including human geography, political science, international relations, environmental history, nationalism studies and sociology) that address, but are not limited to, the following questions and topics:
•       In what ways water as a resource can be ideologically constructed, imagined and framed by a ruling elite to create and reinforce a national identity?
•       Is it appropriate to advance the notion of ‘water nationalism’ (Allouche, 2005) to define the combination of the state-building and nation-building processes over water?
•       Can the current boom in the dam building sector be interpreted as a twenty-first century revamp of the ideology of high modernism (Scott, 1998)?
•       Can the construction of a large hydraulic infrastructure be considered a nation-building tool, and how does this overlap with the nation-building process? In contested river basins, how does this influence inter-state relations?
•       Can we observe ‘techno-nationalism’ (i.e., the pride stemming from producing and exporting state of the art technology) (Edgerton, 2007) also when a large hydraulic infrastructure is being constructed with foreign technology?
•       Can the state be physically constructed out of a material water infrastructure (Carroll, 2012), and in what ways can we observe this phenomenon in the contemporary world?

Interested participants should send their abstracts (max 300 words) and a short bio (100 words) with contact details to the workshop organiser Dr Filippo Menga by May 13, 2016. Authors will be notified of acceptance by May 31, 2016.

A PDF of the call for papers can be downloaded at the following link

The organisation of this workshop is receiving funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 654861.

Allouche, J. (2005). Water nationalism: An explanation of the past and present conflicts in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent? (Doctoral dissertation, Institut universitaire de hautes études internationales).
Carroll, P. (2012). Water, and Technoscientific State Formation in California. Social Studies of Science, 42(4).
Edgerton, D. E. (2007). The contradictions of techno-nationalism and techno-globalism: A historical perspective. New Global Studies, 1(1).
Menga, F. (2015). Building a nation through a dam: the case of Rogun in Tajikistan. Nationalities Papers, 43(3).
Scott, J.C., 1998. Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Swyngedouw, E., 2007. Technonatural revolutions: the scalar politics of Franco's hydro-social dream for Spain, 1939–1975. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32(1).