The International Handbook of Political Ecology
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The International Handbook of Political Ecology

Edited by Raymond L. Bryant

The International Handbook features chapters by leading scholars from around the world in a unique collection exploring the multi-disciplinary field of political ecology. This landmark volume canvasses key developments, topics, issues, debates and concepts showcasing how political ecologists today address pressing social and environmental concerns. Introductory chapters provide an overview of political ecology and the Handbook. Remaining chapters examine five broad themes: issues and approaches; governance and power; knowledge and discourse; method and scale; connections and transformations. Across diverse topics and perspectives, these chapters amount to a wide-ranging survey of current research, making the International Handbook an indispensable reference for scholars and students in political ecology.
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Chapter 27: The cultural politics of waterscapes

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.

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