Delft, The Netherlands, 05 Mar 2015

Inaugural lecture of Margreet Zwarteveen: regulating water, ordering society

On 27 February, Margreet Zwarteveen, Professor of Water Governance at UNESCO-IHE, presented her inaugural lecture on the practices and policies of water governance. In her speech she proposes a mode of engaging with water that makes its distributions - and the organizations of society these assume and produce - more central.

Water distributions in everyday practice

Instead of generic and often normative orderings, Professor Zwarteveen suggests that studies of everyday practices provide a more fruitful starting point for generating insight into how water distributions happen. This can inform new, more modest ways of developing water expertise: ways that are sensitive to how knowledge is always situated, concept- dependent and therefore political and that acknowledge that proposed solutions are often provisional, messy and negotiated.

Mapping domains of today's water experts

Professor Zwarteveen reflects on the implications of changes in the terms of the water debate for ways of knowing and intervening in water and for ways of thinking and doing water governance. With this lecture, she aims to map the contours and coordinates of today's water governance questions by demarcating the areas and domains in which today's water experts and professionals navigate and operate.

Distributional questions

"I had two important starting points and motivations for this exercise: the first was concern about the equity and sustainability of prevailing water (and water rights, incomes, risks) distributions, and the second was the recognition that the distributional questions that form the heart of water governance are always contested and disputed. In my lecture I attempted to explore possibilities for engaging with water governance questions that acknowledge (rather than conceal) that these questions are always deeply political" explains Professor Zwarteveen.

Download the inaugural address 'Regulating Water, Ordering Society' here

About the speaker

Margreet Zwarteveen is an irrigation engineer and social scientist. She studies water allocation policies and practices, focusing on questions of equity and justice. Her research includes the study of different modalities of regulating water flows (technologies, institutions) and of ways to understand (knowledge) or legitimize these. Zwarteveen uses an interdisciplinary approach, seeing water allocation as the outcome of interactions between nature, technologies and society.

The relation between power and water is central in the work of Zwarteveen, with explicit attention to gender.

Margreet Zwarteveen has a special appointment as Professor of Water Governance at the University of Amsterdam at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

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