This panel explores the nexus between the symbolic and material aspects of water. It aims to examine water as a way to develop, manage and cultivate, as well as to transmit, transform and circulate symbolic aspects.
Water as an essence of life and more importantly, as a source of social formation, has been and increasingly is a social and political issue. The way water circulation is managed through dams, water wells, irrigation systems, reservoirs and other human creations, remakes social relations, myths and rituals but also power relationships and conflicts. Geertz' study of the Balinese Subak and Moroccan irrigation is just one example how the process of managing water circulation forges power relationships. Recent studies show that the competition for the right to manage water between different interest groups is increasing (Bakker 2003, Mosse 2003, Strang 2009), creating and re-creating, transforming and transmitting new material and symbolic aspects of water. Water circulation links various agents and their interests; whether development program, conservation project or tourism enterprise, water circulates the indeterminacies of agency and knowledge. Moreover, frictions between 'local' knowledge and national or global water management aims often become evident around water conflicts. This panel explores how the symbolic and material aspects of water are intertwined and linked. Its aim is to highlight that water circulation creates various agents and their agencies, power relationships and new symbolic perceptions. The panel set out to address several questions, including: how water circulation creates different perceptions; how social relations are created through water circulations and management; how different agents negotiate water management; and how different conceptualisations of water, its utility and importance mix when flows of local values and ancient traditions meet global and national interests and knowledge about water.