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Publication Details

Reference
Loftus, Alex and Lumsden, Fiona (2006) Reworking hegemony in the urban waterscape. Centre for Civil Society Research Report 44: 1-24.

Summary
One of the central questions confronting people interested in progressive and democratic change concerns how dominant ideas come to be established in particular places at particular times. In this paper, we explore this question in the post-apartheid informal settlement of Inanda. Above all, we seek to show that the environment of the settlement has become a crucial terrain over which dominant ideas are fought. We focus, in particular, on the aspect of the environment that might be referred to as the waterscape (Swyngeoduw 1999, 2004). Over the last fifty years, access to water in Inanda has been transformed. Originally residents relied on streams or the benevolence of landlords to provide a borehole in the area. In the early 1980s, the apartheid state, working in alliance with the Urban Foundation, implemented the first water scheme in the area. After the fall of apartheid, the African National Congress (ANC) has sought to extend access to water to all in the settlement. Throughout this period, the activity of collecting water has changed profoundly, both in terms of the physical act and in terms of the different relationships established through that physical act. The waterscape has thereby come to mean different things at different times, and the common sense ideas working through it have also changed. Part of this shift in meaning has been an attempt by different groups to enrol water in a particular view of the world that is supportive of a particular position. Often, as we show, this attempt to manipulate the waterscape for the purposes of moral and cultural legitimation has resulted in failure. Towards the end of the paper, we begin to explore the ways in which the struggle over ideas in the waterscape might open up new democratic possibilities.

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