School of Social and Political Science

South Asian Anthropocenes & Singhvi Lecture

30 - 31 May 2023
12:00 - 14:00


Violet Laidlaw Room, CMB


South Asia, with its myriad political systems, histories, and socio-cultures, is also the site of diverse ecologies, encompassing flora, fauna, microbes, habitats, and landscapes. This event explores the intersections between politics, cultures, and ecologies in the past and present in the South Asian region. It will host multidisciplinary conversations between scholars and practitioners working on related matters to develop a collective understanding of the issues at stake, the kind of activity, scholarship and interventions that are underway, and the possibilities for future joint initiatives.

This workshop will host the annual CSAS Singhvi Lecture, which will be delivered by Prof Daanish Mustafa, King's College London.

CSAS Singhvi Lecture: Prof Daanish Mustafa, King's College London

Decolonising Water: Knowing and re-enchanting waters from national to local scale

There is something fundamentally dysfunctional about how we have known and imagined water under modernity. Colonial knowledge systems have been deeply intertwined with the project of modernity. Term like, cubic meters, average flows, parts per million of pollutants, hydraulic gradient among others, form the foundational vocabulary for knowing and interacting with water, waterways, rivers and springs across spatial scales. A decolonial imaginary and practice would incorporate the different ways of knowing and living with water, in addition to, and not necessarily instead of the colonial (scientific?) tropes that have imprisoned hydro-social imaginaries. Water has been thought of as a resource or a hazard within colonial water imaginaries. A decolonised praxis would emphasise the experience of water as variegated lens through which to know and live with water. Drawing upon the examples of 2022 floods in Pakistan, and the case of mountain springs in the post-conflict Swat valley of northern Pakistan, I make the case for a decolonial praxis of water, that may usher in a more gender and class inclusive experience to water from national to local scales. Water as an instrument of producing a national scale of water management is the real villain of the decolonising agenda in water. Re-enchantment of local waterscapes and re-democratization of hydro-social praxis is our best hope in negotiating a climate change present.

BioDaanish Mustafa is a professor in critical Geography at King’s College, London. His research has been in water, environmental hazards, development and critical geographies of violence and terror. He has worked on irrigation, flood management, urban water supply and sanitation, cultural politics of urban horticulture and Indigenous waterscapes within the sub-discipline of water resources geography. Daanish’s publications have been based upon research in South and West Asia, Central American and the United States. His research has been funded by US National Science Foundation, Department for International Development (DFID), IDRC, The Belmont Forum and the British Academy among others.