Biopolitics, discipline, and hydro-citizenship: Drought management and water governance in England
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2019

The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). © 2019 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). In this paper we argue that English drought management rests on two imaginaries of hydrocitizenship: an economic/instrumental imaginary that frames people primarily as “customers,” and an imaginary that focuses more on the affectively charged, personal engagements between individuals and “hydrosocial” spaces. These imaginaries, we contend, roughly correspond with the two modalities of a form of governance referred to by Michel Foucault as biopower: biopolitics and discipline. Drawing on fieldwork conducted as part of a large interdisciplinary research project on drought in the UK, we sketch the contours of English drought management, exploring in particular the “macro-scale” elements of drought management (the biopolitical modality), premised on computer simulation modelling, and the elements of drought management that focus on the level of individual people (the disciplinary modality), premised in part on the work of local environmental organisations. The difference between the two notions of hydrocitizenship informing these two modalities of management, we conclude, produces tensions that potentially undermine water governance as it is currently organised in the UK. Ultimately, our goal in the paper is not solely to expose or critique existing governance efforts or the power relations therein, but rather to examine the interplay of governmentalities that constitute drought management in order to illuminate and expand the potential for “being governed differently.”.

drought management




environmental governance



Eric Sarmiento

Texas State

University of Oxford

Catharina Landström

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Science, Technology and Society

University of Oxford

Sarah Whatmore

University of Oxford

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

0020-2754 (ISSN)

Vol. 44 2 361-375


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