Appel à communications EASST-4S 2024

Call for abstracts EASST-4S 2024

Imagineering the future: water, infrastructure and human values

The panel examines the relationship between the materiality of water infrastructures, their scripts, and studies of future water availability. It raises questions about how water-related climate vulnerability could potentially present an opportunity to reshape these infrastructures.


Sophie Tabouret (EHESS-CIRED)
Gabrielle Bouleau (Inrae)
Peter Mollinga (ZEF Bonn University)

Deadline for submissions (around 250 words): February 12, 2024

EASST-4S 2024

Water is an essential element of life and is controlled by various infrastructures at different geographical and politico-administrative levels. Whether it is in the form of pipes, water treatment plants, reservoirs, embankments, riverfronts, etc., infrastructures are technical objects that we consider, following the work of Susan Leigh Star (1999), to be relational objects incorporating values, constraining use and access, and reshaping human-environment relations. When they operate as planned, some water infrastructures make invisible the work necessary to their building and maintenance, and the master narratives behind their design. Other infrastructures, like dams and riverfronts, are meant to exhibit the imaginaries that generated them. Being relational, infrastructure design and use meet resistance, ranging from its very creation [large dam reference] to their maintenance.

The growing uncertainties surrounding the quality and quantity of water have led to the emergence of alternative scenarios. We posit that a renewed focus on narratives depicting possible future scenarios of the development of water systems can offer us a fresh perspective on the politicization of water infrastructures. This panel seeks to delve into how future-oriented narratives (imaginaries) impact the planning, design and management of water infrastructures in times of multiple uncertainties. To this end, participants will explore several key questions, including:

  • How are forecasting models continually evolving in connection with these infrastructures ?
  • To what extent do extension, repurposing, and repairing water infrastructures create opportunities for discussions on their core narratives and alternative framing?
  • How do narratives about future climate and water availability challenge the conventional uses of water?
  • Do studies on water futures encourage sector-specific (agriculture, industry, construction, etc.) or multi-purpose water strategies? How do existing infrastructures constrain these potential changes in purpose?
  • What insights can the politicization of contested futures provide about the handling of ecological concerns?
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