- Cultural politics and the hydrosocial cycle: Water, power and identity in the Andean highlands
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- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This paper explores interactions among water, power and cultural politics in the Andes. It analyzes the hydrosocial cycle as the political-ecological production of a time- and place-specific socionature, enrolling and co-patterning the social, the natural and the supernatural to reflect dominant interests and power.
A case analysis locates community water control practices in Mollepata, Peru, in the broader historical setting of Andean water empires. To see how local worldviews, water flows and water control practices are interwoven, it unravels the ‘meta’ behind the ‘physical’, examining contemporary expressions of the ancient ‘hydrocosmological cycle’ that intimately interconnects the cyclical dynamics of hydrology, agro-ecology, human lifetime and cosmology. Herein, bonds among mountain deities, Mother Earth and humans are fundamental to guide water flows through this world, the world above and the world below.
Next, the paper analyzes the ‘political’ behind metaphysical patterning of water flows. Since ancient times, elites have striven to reinforce subjugation over Andean peoples by creating ‘convenient histories’ and ‘socionatural order’, connecting local water practices and worldviews to supralocal schemes of belonging, thereby deploying overlapping governmental rationalities.
Continued in contemporary, globalizing water politics and ‘governmentalities’, efforts to establish, demystify or transform frames of ‘water order’ are at the heart of water struggles. Here, dominant conceptual and cultural-political frameworks naturalize the strategic positioning of humans and nonhumans in hydrosocial patterns that support water hierarchies and legitimize particular distribution, extraction and control practices, as if these were entirely natural. Hydrosocial cycles are, however, importantly mediated by counter-forces and alternative water truths.
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