Beyond opposing water realities
Malene K Brandshaug’s PhD thesis ‘Liquid landscapes: Human-water interactions and water scarcity in Yanque, Peru’ was successfully defended at the School of Global Studies on 7 February 2020. The thesis shows how Yanqueños creatively combine divergent water management practices, use distinct entangled irrigation infrastructures, and make relevant multiple versions of water to deal with water scarcity.
The thesis concerns water scarcity and focuses on a range of water management practices in the farming district of Yanque in the Southern Peruvian Andes – an area where everyday life revolves around acquiring enough water for irrigation.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among small-scale farmers, the core chapters of the thesis scrutinise how water is searched for in physical and bureaucratic landscapes; how it is captured in canals, reservoirs and fields; and how it is paid to and for through offerings to earth-beings, and through money transfers to the state and water organisations. The thesis not only explores what people do with water, but also the variations in what water is, becomes and does in Yanque. Liquid landscapes also addresses the relation between national and regional politics of water governance and local water management and, argues that a historical continuity of water scarcity in Yanque is exacerbated by environmental changes concerning disappearing glaciers and irregular rains, as well as by a continued coloniality.
The thesis shows how indeterminacy is created in political spaces, in the mountain and valley landscape, and through emotion and affect. Through describing and analysing the Yanqueños heterogeneous practices, the thesis seeks to move beyond what can appear to be opposing water realities. The thesis concludes that by enacting water as a sentient person and as a passive substance, Yanqueños do not simply adopt the dominant way of valuing water as an object to be used efficiently - they creatively combine divergent water management practices, use distinct entangled irrigation infrastructures, and make relevant multiple versions of water to deal with water scarcity.
Malene K Brandshaug