Conference & Call for Papers: Social Water

Social Water: an Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Workshop
25th October 2013, University of York

Call for Papers

Water sustains life, but how might it also be said to sustain communities? Social and cultural engagements with water have become a rapidly expanding research area, a development which has challenged and complicated the previously dominant technical–managerial view of water as a ‘natural resource’. There is a growing realisation that ecologically-responsible interactions with water can only come about through an understanding of how people experience, use and ‘think with’ water as a particular type of substance that lies somewhere between nature and culture.

Veronica Strang proposes that: ‘Water’s diversity is […] a key to its meanings’ (2005: 98). Water comes in many forms: it can be salty, fresh, flowing, frozen, or gaseous; it can be ‘blue’ or ‘green’ (Falkenmark 1997), grey, or ‘virtual’ (Allen 2011). Water might be understood as a materialisation of structures of social power (Swyngedouw 2004), a substance through whose movements we can trace histories of colonialism, underdevelopment and the flow of capital. It can be a space of leisure, sport, or hedonism, or a site of danger, the origin of disasters such as tsunamis or droughts. Perhaps crucially, thinking about water is inseparable from thinking about its opposite, land.

This workshop takes water’s various forms as a provocation and invitation for postgraduates to present similarly diverse critical perspectives on water’s social meanings. It offers a unique opportunity for constructive interdisciplinary conversations on this emerging and vital subject.

Topics to consider might include, but are not limited to:

·Water privatisation
·Water on film
·Water in ecocriticism and environmental studies
·Gendered engagements with water
·Water in religion, performance and ritual
·Waterscapes – the sea, rivers, coastlines, marshes
·Disasters and reconstruction
·Embodiment, memory and affect

The day will feature a keynote speech by Dr Kimberley Peters, Lecturer in Human Geography at Aberystwyth University, and will conclude with a roundtable discussion led by Professor Graham Huggan of the School of English at the University of Leeds.

This event is hosted by the White Rose Research Studentship Network on Hydropolitics: Community, Environment and Conflict in an Unevenly Developed World. It has been generously supported by the University of York Humanities Research Centre.

Abstracts of 250 words for 20 minute papers should be sent to Hannah Boast,, by 13 September 2013.

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