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Scarcity as a means of governing: Challenging neoliberal hydromentality in the context of the South African drought

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Sofie Hellberg
Publicerad i Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Publiceringsår 2019
Publicerad vid Institutionen för globala studier
Språk en
Länkar https://doi.org/10.1177/25148486198...
Ämnesord Water, hydromentality, biopolitics, scarcity, South Africa
Ämneskategorier Annan samhällsvetenskap


This article investigates the role of scarcity in water governance with a particular focus on South Africa. It applies a (green) governmentality perspective and argues that in neoliberal hydromentality scarcity is used as a regulatory device that governs people's water access. In South Africa, water governance and water scarcity have for a long time been central to the construction of a particular state with particular social purposes. While scarcity in the post-apartheid period has mainly been used as a means of governing the poor, the role of scarcity has in the recent water crisis been transformed; scarcity has increasingly become a material concern for all of society. Notwithstanding that the crisis is due not only to the lack of rain but also to political and institutional factors, it has, in media and policy circles, involved a preoccupation with scarcity as a physical phenomenon. Such a preoccupation risks obscuring the reasons why poorer populations have long suffered from the lack of water. At the same time, the article contends, the current crisis presents South Africa with an opportunity for revisiting water scarcity as a technology of governing in creating a more sustainable and equitable water allocation.

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