Reclaiming the notion of ‘Water care’

Questioning Knowledge, Narratives and Research Practices in the Water Research Field

This conference is an invitation to researchers from different fields, social actors and users of water resources to enrich the community of practices around the concept of ‘water care’. This emerging reflection was initiated in June 2022 in a workshop jointly organised by MAK’IT, the joint research unit G-Eau and the Water Governance Group of IHE Delft Institute for Water[1]. We are trying now to explore this concept by discussing and sharing ideas, methods, and bringing concrete examples from fieldwork carried out all over the world on various empirical cases related to water governance and water practices.

Our objective is clear: how to take into account a plurality of knowledge to collectively take care of water in a more efficient and sustainable way? Our hypothesis – that taking care of knowledge is necessary to take care of water – raises various research questions that we intend to work out during the conference along two main axes:

  1. How ‘Care’ discourses and practices apply to water management and daily practices related to water? We want to understand, based on ethnographic insights, which knowledge, narratives and representations are mobilized through policies, management, agricultural and environmental practices, collective and individual actions to preserve water quantitatively and qualitatively. A particular attention will be given to the social interactions around water and to how caring about water is also a way of caring about social life (minimizing water-related conflicts, fighting appropriation by the most powerful, etc.). We will highlight various discourses and definitions of the “good ways” to manage and take care of water developed by water managers and water users.
  2. What are the implications of the first question on our own research practices and postures? How, as, researchers from the water field, do we take into account the plurality of knowledge and how do we “take care” of this knowledge plurality that we are also contributing to produce through interdisciplinary and participative research? This question concerns all disciplines.

[1] A three-day workshop, including a public event, was organized from 21 to 23 June 2022 on the topic “Caring Matters in Knowing Water”.

14:00-14:15 Opening Remarks

Patrick Caron, Director of the Montpellier Advanced Knowledge Institute on Transitions (MAK’IT) (France)

Hind Sabri, Researcher in Water Anthropology, MAK’IT/FIAS 2022-2023 Fellow

14:15 – 15:15 Knowledge, Narratives and Imaginaries related to Water Care

Moderation: Caroline Lejars, Deputy Director, JRU ‘Water Management, Actors, Territories’ (G-EAU), Agricultural Research Centre for International, Development (France)

  • The conceptual meanings of ‘Care’ in different languages and socio-cultural contexts (Iran/Germany)

    Elahi Salehi Rizi, PhD in Comparative Literature, Côte d’Azur University (France), Student in Computational linguistics, University of Stuttgart (Germany)
  • The Analysis of the circularity of irrigation water in a Saharan context: the exampleof the M’Zab oases,Algeria (video)

    Amine Saidani, PhD student, University of Montpellier (France) & Agronomic and Veterinary Institute Hassan II (Morocco)
  • 30 years of contrasting experiences of integrated water resource management in BurkinaFaso through a ‘Care’ lense

    Patrick Laigneau
    , Hydro-Anthropologist, Consultant & Independent Researcher, Otinga Consultancy Company (France / Brazil)
  • Stories and conflicts over water in Andean communities in northern Ecuador

    Ana Gendron-Correa, Professor of Anthropology, ISC Paris Business School (France) & European Coordinator, Fundación Progressio Ecuador (Ecuador)


15:15 – 16:30 Controlling or taking care of water resources?

Moderation: Veronica Mitroi, Researcher in Environmental Sociology, JRU ‘Water Management, Actors, Territories’ (G-EAU), French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development – CIRAD (Brazil)

  • Video presentation ‘Caring Matters in Groundwater Governance’

    Margreet Zwarteveen
    , Professor of Water Governance, UNESCO-IHE Delft Institute for Water Education (The Netherlands) & MAK’IT 2021-2022 Fellow
  • Irrigation water control in Morocco: what action plan has Morocco adopted to ensure its water sovereignty?

    Fathallah Sghir, Consultant & former Head of the Irrigation Network Management Department, Haouz Regional Agricultural Development Office – ORMVAH (Morocco)
  • How can knowledge of the history and operation of the Nantelle Canal help answer the question of foreseeable changes in water distribution?

    Eric Gili, Associate Researcher, Centre for the Modern and Contemporary Mediterranean (CMMC), Côte d’Azur University (France)
  • The fabulation of a landscape: words and gestures that weave water, land and people

    Ester Gisbert Alemany, Landscape Architect,@drassana Architects  &Professor-Research Fellow, University of Alicante (Spain)
  • Between danger and control of water: searching for representations of “water care” in Chinese traditional and contemporary thought

    Katiana Le Mentec
    , Researcher, CNRS & Center for Studies on Modern and Contemporary China, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme/EHESS (France)
  • One stakeholder’s care is another stakeholder’s non-care: insights from the participatory workshop on Waterlands management in the Gharb plain of Morroco

    Hajar Choukrani, PhD Student, Agronomic and Veterinary Institute Hassan II (Morocco) & Institut Agro Montpellier (France)


16:30 – 17:00 Ethnographic film: ‘Water, Power and Care: at the heart of a water civilization’

  • Hind Sabri, Researcher in Water Anthropology, MAK’IT/FIAS 2022-2023 Fellow

17:00 – 17:30 Concluding remarks – Co-constructing knowledge: working on the application of care to the field of water

  • Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute/ IFPRI (USA)
  • Bibiana Bilbao,  Full Professor of Environmental Studies, Simon Bolivar University (Venezuela) & MAK’IT 2022-2023 Fellow
  • Marcel Kuper, Director, JRU ‘Water Management, Actors, Territories’ (G-EAU) French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development – CIRAD (France)