Accepted paper:

Living water, making water: the experience and political construction of water scarcity


Julia Wedel (Oxford Brookes University)

Paper short abstract:

If ways of experiencing an environment are inextricably linked to ways of acting in it, foregrounding experiences of a water scarce environment towards contesting its political construction can provide nuanced understanding of how local knowledge and national policies mutually inform one another.

Paper long abstract:

A short graphic animation developed from a broader ethnographic study on resilience to water scarcity in environments of rapid change conducted with 23 households and 8 institutional stakeholders in an informal settlement in Lima, Peru, highlights the links between perceptions and experiences of water scarcity and its political construction. Through a number of interweaving short stories developed around practices of dwelling, the animation examines discrepancies in perceptions of, and associated actions to adjust to protracted and unpredictably fluctuating water scarcity. Highlighting the vital and non-substitutable nature of water and residents' multiple time and resource-consuming daily practices to acquire this, the animation draws out the tensions arising between the production, use of, and constant adjustment to experience-based, tacit knowledge about water scarcity, and its concurrent political construction. The animation seeks to illustrate how local practices of place making have the potential to inform national and global policies aimed at successful adaptation to protracted water scarcity, and how in turn local practices are enabled (or indeed hindered) by such policies. It offers critiques of placing the onus for adaptation on communities by showcasing the limitations to individual and community agency in adjusting to, and contesting, politically constructed water scarcity. This short animation presents a number of discussion points around the link between the experience and political construction of water (scarce) environments; and the ethnographic, graphic and visual means for examining and communicating practices of place making and their potential for understanding this link.

panel Env07
The changing time and rhythms of water