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Accepted Paper:

'It's a privilege to call it a crisis': Sociocultural dynamics of Cape Town's current water discourse  
Teresa Cremer (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle(Saale))

Paper short abstract:

This paper tells the story of the emergence of a space and place that came into existence due to the narrative of water scarcity in Cape Town and reveals how accessing water can come to be seen as simultaneously political, economic, technical, hydrological or spiritual.

Paper long abstract:

‚Day Zero' and the possibility of the total collapse of Cape Town's water system, resulted in a volatile situation whereby, by some citizens, water was no longer perceived as a stable and inert substance that simply flowed through underground pipes.

Yet, while the crisis offered striking examples of the creative agency of water-saving citizens, it also brought home the race and class divides in this post-apartheid city.

The paper will show how the city's water crisis brought into visibility a complex web of human and non-human actors that included pipes, springs, dams, boreholes, police, politicians, goverment officials, water experts, activists, citizens and non-citizens.

The paper is concerned with the various forms of how Cape Town's urban population reacts and responds to the current water discourse of scarcity and shortage. What comes to the forefront is the way in which the city's municipality deals with the water situation that partly ran contrary to the immediate creative and improvised reactions of the urban inhabitants.

By reflecting on ethnographic accounts that have been collected at the Water Collection Site in Newlands, this paper will focus on diverse urban actors that (per)form this place in which competing understandings of water, property and rights were articulated. In a short time these actors were deeply involved in the dynamics, regularities and volatilities, conflicts and advantages of this site - all of them brought together by the new and transforming water conditions in the City of Cape Town and their need for basic resources.

Panel Env05
Volatile waters, improvised worlds: hydrosocial transformations and the making of orderly flows [P+R]
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 April, 2019, -