This project (2020-1-SE01-KA203-077872) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Hydrosocial territories: a political ecology perspective

Partners' Institution
Södertörn University
Boelens, R., Hoogesteger, J., Swyngedouw, E., Vos, J., Wester, P., 2016. Hydrosocial territories: a political ecology perspective. Water International 41, 1–14.
Thematic Area
Development studies
We define and explore hydrosocial territories as spatial configurations of people, institutions, water flows, hydraulic technology and the biophysical environment that revolve around the control of water. Territorial politics finds expression in encounters of diverse actors with divergent spatial and political-geographical interests. Their territory-building projections and strategies compete, superimpose and align to strengthen specific water-control claims. Thereby, actors continuously recompose the territory’s hydraulic grid, cultural reference frames, and political-economic relationships. Using a political ecology focus, we argue that territorial struggles go beyond battles over natural resources as they involve struggles over meaning, norms, knowledge, identity, authority and discourses.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
This article is reviewed for COSY from the perspective that not all systems research is explicitly linked to theories on complex systems. There are other approaches with similar aims, one of the being the political ecology approach. In this article what i COSY would be called a complex system is defined as:

"We therefore conceptualize a ‘hydrosocial territory’ as
the contested imaginary and socio-environmental materialization of a spatially bound
multi-scalar network in which humans, water flows, ecological relations, hydraulic infrastructure,
financial means, legal-administrative arrangements and cultural institutions and
practices are interactively defined, aligned and mobilized through epistemological belief
systems, political hierarchies and naturalizing discourses."

"Therefore, the question of how, by
which actors, through which strategies and with what interests and consequences the
‘natural’ and the ‘social’ boundaries of hydrosocial territories are conceptualized and
materialized through interlinked natural, social and technological elements, is fundamental"
Point of Strength
The focus on complex relationships is well elaborated which makes it useful as a contribution to systems thinking on complex issues.