Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
The Hydro-Social Circus: The Contradictions of Water Conservation & the Reconfiguration of Waterscapes in Rural India

In Maharashtra, a water-stressed state in western India where agriculture is the single largest user of groundwater, the state government has attempted to build a "social movement" to make the state "drought free". This involves reconfiguring rural waterscapes and developing new conservation minded environmental subjectivities amongst farmers, assisted by a host of technological and infrastructural interventions that operate at both the landscape and farm scale. However, these interventions are beset by contradictions, and may not actually be conserving water or creating conservation minded farmers. Nonetheless these interventions remain popular amongst farmers, political leaders, and bureaucrats, who interpret the effects and benefits of these interventions in radically different ways. Building on interdisciplinary work on human-environment interactions, I will elucidate what the reconfiguration of the rural waterscape means for people and the environment and their respective and interconnected wellbeing. My research asks how the contradictory elements of these interventions are negotiated and accommodated and explores ways in which the diverse elements of these emerging hydrosocial configurations align in the contemporary moment. I will also examine the ways in which these interventions attempt to refashion subjectivities. Of interest to me is the "hybrid" nature of these subjectivities and my research will explore how the boundaries that divide local and techno-scientific knowledges and practices are blurred through the implementation of these programs leading to unexpected results. In all this the bio-geophysical elements of these configurations cannot be ignored; my research will explore how the flows of water, the characteristics of the landscape, and the underlying aquifers redirect these configurations and how the relations that constitute both the human and non-human elements of these configurations are changed through these interventions.