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The hydrosocial cycle: Defining and mobilizing a relational-dialectical approach to water

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Abstract

The relationship between water and society has come to the forefront of critical inquiry in recent years, attracting significant scholarly and popular interest. As the state hydraulic paradigm gives way to modes of water governance, there is a need to recognize, reflect and represent water’s broader social dimensions. In this article, we advance the concept of the hydrosocial cycle as a means of theorizing and analyzing water-society relations. The hydrosocial cycle is based on the concept of the hydrologic cycle, but modifies it in important ways. While the hydrologic cycle has the effect of separating water from its social context, the hydrosocial cycle deliberately attends to water’s social and political nature. We employ a relational-dialectical approach to conceptualize the hydrosocial cycle as a socio-natural process by which water and society make and remake each other over space and time. We argue that unravelling this historical and geographical process of making and remaking offers analytical insights into the social construction and production of water, the ways by which it is made known, and the power relations that are embedded in hydrosocial change. We contend that the hydrosocial cycle comprises a process of co-constitution as well as material circulation. Existing work within the political ecology tradition considers the co-constitution of water and power, particularly in relation to processes of capital accumulation. We propose the hydrosocial cycle as an analytical tool for investigating hydrosocial relations and as a broader framework for undertaking critical political ecologies of water.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-180
Number of pages11
JournalGeoforum
Volume57
Early online date25 Nov 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014
Peer-reviewedYes

Keywords

    Research areas

  • Water, Hydrosocial cycle, Hydrologic cycle, Political ecology, Relational dialectics

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