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Amitangshu Acharya

Emergence of a water-produced landscape or ‘waterscape’ has proved to be an invaluable unit of analysis to elaborate the political ecology of water. Produced through complex interactions between water and power, a waterscape is a ‘politicized environment’ that rejects ‘apolitical’ ecologies that obscure conflicts over meaning and practice. Political ecology of water has been enriched by sophisticated analyses of water-power dynamics, unruly materiality and emancipatory projects, while the concept of a waterscape has brought to the foreground the thick network of actors and interests that constitute it. This chapter advocates a further disciplinary transgression in the research field via a cultural turn. Given that control over water can be a means of cultural conquest, and not simply a way to assert political-economic power over a resource, it is argued that political ecologists will need to widen their unit of analysis to permit greater conceptual elaboration and empirical depth. This chapter discusses how key cultural factors, notably symbolism, consumption, belonging and landscape, intersect with politics to produce waterscapes, and draws on diverse Indian examples by way of illustration. In the process, the case for a more culturally oriented political ecology of water is made.