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Water will rise: new political lives of a life-giving substance 
Ivan Rajković (University of Vienna)
Larisa Kurtovic (University of Ottawa)
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Rozita Dimova (Ghent University)
Christina Schwenkel (University of California, Riverside)
Friday 24 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Lisbon

Short Abstract:

Water is becoming the latest frontier of capital accumulation, legal regulation and social organising. This panel asks how this "turn to water" reshapes collective life and the political itself, by simultaneously making it naturalised, popularised, and sacralised.

Long Abstract:

Water is increasingly understood as the last frontier: not only for capital accumulation but for legal definitions and social mobilisation too. Nowadays, water has become threatened by privatisation, toxicity, and violence - perils that citizens increasingly understand as an attack on life itself (Muehlebach 2017). While these processes are a part of Capitalocene's long-standing effort to capture the 'cheap nature' in its (non)human forms (Moore 2015), struggles that are currently unfolding in name of water vitalism are also bounded in space and time. Across the Balkans, for example, popular insurgencies against small hydro-power-plants understand river termination as coeval with demographic erasure, a symbol of broader crises of care on the European semi-periphery. Similarly, the 2016 Standing Rock protesters objected to the Dakota Access Pipeline as both a threat to Sioux Reservation's access to drinking water and a symbol of ongoing efforts of the settler state to erase Native Americans as people. Across very different places, water is defended not only as the last commons to be enclosed but as a symbol of possible freedom and shared substance, in relation to particular formations of authority, generation, labour, and difference. This panel asks for papers that approach this 'turn to water' as a site of transforming political subjectivities and social bonds. What forms of collectivity, kinship, and universalism emerge through water - and what exclusions lie in its wake? How is the political naturalised, how popularised, and how sacralised, through a life-giving substance? What historical (dis)continuities get expressed through the water flows?

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 24 July, 2020, -
Panel Video visible to paid-up delegates