Lecture | Water Talk
Moving Water and the Political in Southwest China
- Friday 24 May 2019
- Free entry, no registration required. The talk is followed by a reception in the Bamboo Lounge.
- Water and Society Lab: Water Talks
Pieter de la Court
2333 AK Leiden
- Room 5A-29
Water is a matter of extreme concern for the government of The People’s Republic of China. One of the 13 countries most affected by water scarcity, China has 20% of the world’s population but only 7% of its fresh waters. Drinking water in most of the country’s rural areas is unfit for human consumption because of pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, and industrial activity. In rural Yunnan, agricultural, domestic and environmental water use remains insufficiently supplied. This is partly because of prolonging periods of drought, and partly due to allocation policies that siphon local water supplies out, leaving behind only faulty and underfunded infrastructures. Under the mounting pressure of such complex crises, water use in the Province is becoming agonistic. Water access, quality, and price work in concert to reinforce and amplify already existing inequalities, despoil the environment and fracture the social body across new class, ethnic, gender and geographical lines.
Based on twenty-four months of multi-sited fieldwork among the staff of water services agencies, water users’ associations and Han and Yi rural communities, this talk investigates sustainable responses to China’s ongoing water crises from the vantage point of Huize County, a water-stressed, ecologically damaged multi-ethnic area of rural Yunnan Province. The talk explores the political, technical and ethical project of making water available to human use in a time of drought, infrastructural disrepair, market-backed dispossession and environmental stress.
Dr. Andrea Pia is a legal and environmental anthropologist who works at the interface between political economy, development, and the critical study of the commons. His regional focus over the last 15 years has been the People’s Republic of China. So far, his work has revolved around one set of interrelated questions: How do society and the natural environment affect and constitute one another? Along what lines are the benefits and burdens of human projects for the environment distributed? And according to what cultural, legal and ethical logics? What are the felicity conditions for counterprojects to emerge? His second ethnographic project and book manuscript Cutting the Mass Line: Moving Water and the Political in Southwest China, aims at rethinking social scientific approaches to collective action by exploring China’s ongoing water crises from the vantage point of Huize County, a water-stressed, ecologically damaged, multi-ethnic area of rural Yunnan Province. This research follows Chinese hydro-engineers, street-level bureaucrats and embattled rural residents as they attend to and negotiate with the various raptures of the everyday that their haphazard enrolment in the global quest for water sustainability is materializing in rural China.