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Contested Knowledges: Large Dams and Mega-Hydraulic Development

1
Water Resources Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
2
Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA), University of Amsterdam, Roetersstraat 33, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3
Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Universidad Central del Ecuador, Ciudadela Universitaria, Quito 170129, Ecuador
4
Department of Social Sciences, Catholic University Peru, Avenida Universitaria 1801, Lima 32, Peru
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(3), 416; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11030416
Received: 18 September 2018 / Revised: 1 November 2018 / Accepted: 3 January 2019 / Published: 26 February 2019
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Abstract

Locally and globally, mega-hydraulic projects have become deeply controversial. Recently, despite widespread critique, they have regained a new impetus worldwide. The development and operation of large dams and mega-hydraulic infrastructure projects are manifestations of contested knowledge regimes. In this special issue we present, analyze and critically engage with situations where multiple knowledge regimes interact and conflict with each other, and where different grounds for claiming the truth are used to construct hydrosocial realities. In this introductory paper, we outline the conceptual groundwork. We discuss ‘the dark legend of UnGovernance’ as an epistemological mainstay underlying the mega-hydraulic knowledge regimes, involving a deep, often subconscious, neglect of the multiplicity of hydrosocial territories and water cultures. Accordingly, modernist epistemic regimes tend to subjugate other knowledge systems and dichotomize ‘civilized Self’ versus ‘backward Other’; they depend upon depersonalized planning models that manufacture ignorance. Romanticizing and reifying the ‘othered’ hydrosocial territories and vernacular/indigenous knowledge, however, may pose a serious danger to dam-affected communities. Instead, we show how multiple forms of power challenge mega-hydraulic rationality thereby repoliticizing large dam regimes. This happens often through complex, multi-actor, multi-scalar coalitions that make that knowledge is co-created in informal arenas and battlefields. View Full-Text
Keywords: mega-hydraulic projects; modernist traditions; knowledge arenas; manufactured ignorance; depoliticization; UnGovernance; dehumanizing rationality; multi-actor multi-scalar alliances; co-creation; power mega-hydraulic projects; modernist traditions; knowledge arenas; manufactured ignorance; depoliticization; UnGovernance; dehumanizing rationality; multi-actor multi-scalar alliances; co-creation; power
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Boelens, R.; Shah, E.; Bruins, B. Contested Knowledges: Large Dams and Mega-Hydraulic Development. Water 2019, 11, 416.

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