Geographies of big water infrastructure: Contemporary insights and future research opportunities

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Largescale “big” water infrastructure is once again at the forefront of the global developmentalist agenda and is receiving attendant scholarly attention. Given this parallel growth, now is time to take stock of current scholarly contributions and explore opportunities for future research. In this paper, I review recent developments and insights gained from research on big water infrastructure, and water infrastructure studies, generally, to highlight six key threads of current scholarship. These include the production of big water infrastructure as: (1) a temporal process embedded in colonialism and ecological modernization; (2) infused with infrastructural knowledges, practices and subjectivities; (3) a spatial-geopolitical process; (4) subject to infrastructural and environmental material characteristics and capacities; (5) producing uneven development and enabling accumulation by dispossession; and (6) a contested process of differentiated socio-material resistance. In reviewing this literature, I argue that these six research strands form key analytic considerations that could be employed by others studying the nexus between water development, political ecological change, and infrastructure. Before concluding, in the final section of the paper I present additional and ongoing future research directions including big water infrastructure as it intersects with socially differentiated human intimacy and embodiment, indigenous and racialized forms of dispossession, and financialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12718
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Social Sciences
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science

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