Water Across Scales: Examples From Central Asia And The Horn Of Africa
Review of a lecture by Dr Filippo Menga
Date : 15/12/2017
29th November 2017: King s College LondonGuest Lecture: Dr Filippo Menga Dr Filippo Menga is a lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Reading, whose research focuses on political geography, critical water geography, critical geopolitics, and nationalism studies to offer an innovative approach to the study of water politics. Dr Menga holds a Ph.D in International Studies, awarded by the University of Cagliari during 2014. He was awarded the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship prior to his Ph.D, awarded by the University of Manchester for his research titled Dam-nations? A Study on dams, nation-building and transboundary water relations through case studies from Ethiopia and Tajikistan . Dr Menga attended King s College London today to provide a talk for the Water, Security and the Environment postgraduate students.Dr Menga s lecture at King s College London today conceptualised the inter-scalar approach required examining cases of nation-building through the construction of dams. Menga focuses upon critical perspectives of international relations, political geography, and water politics to explore the interrelations of the nation, state and nation-state. Menga contends that a political geography perspective allows an individual to explore the different scales and spaces to understand the interplay between natural resources and their respective political constructs, including the state and their borders that manage these resources.When referring to the political institutions that manage natural resources such as water, Menga encourages academics to look further than just viewing the state as analytical black boxes , whereby the idea of the state should not be the only level of analysis in water relations and management. Menga viewed the state as a fluid process rather than a pre-existing entity, especially in its relation with nation-building through the construction of dams. Through this perspective, one may avoid falling into the territorial trap , as Agnew (1994) states, are based on the assumptions that (1) states are fixed units of sovereign space, (2) the domestic is separated from the foreign, and (3) assumption that the state existed prior to society. Menga s viewpoints derive more from a political geography discipline rather than an IR one, with Menga appreciating the interdisciplinary, interrelations and fluidity of conceptualising the state, nation and nation-building in relation to water.Menga contextualises the nation-building processes and nationalism to the case studies of the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. Menga views nation-building processes and nationalism highly relevant factors in these specific case studies, resulting in the concept of water nationalism (first coined by Allouche, 2005). Water nationalism is defined as the combination of state-building and nation-making, which results in one of the main primary causes of transboundary water conflicts. Menga explains the role of dam building, in an analytical lens, as multi-dimensional and multi-scalar symbolic process (Menga, 2016).Menga concluded his findings of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia and the Rogun Dam in Tajikistan, as dam infrastructures that contribute towards the legitimisation and support for political members in power. Through the legitimisation of power at a domestic level, is a nation able to formulate a national identity that encapsulates the belonging of individuals within the state. He further explains how at an international level, dam-building can result in disputations with other riparian or rival nations. This process enables those in power to bolster national interests and assert their dominance within the region. Menga highlighted how the dam in Tajikistan was more than just a multi-purpose dam but more of a symbol of national pride, a leap forward in development a matter of life and death , and the Ethiopian GERD dam construction spurred large amounts of nationalist sentiment, with some individuals stating they would work countless hours of unpaid work to help build the structure.Filippo Menga s lecture was both insightful and relevant in understanding water politics, and the process of nation-building affecting territorial claims and power structures within various regions of the world. With the rising of nationalistic sentiment, instances of contestation are more likely between riparian nations, who will optimise water use for their own intentions. The examination of the domestic and foreign factors, which are ultimately intertwined, and examining the state and nation as processes rather than pre-determined entities can further one s understanding of water politics.(1) Agnew, J. (1994). The territorial trap: The geographical assumptions of international relations theory, Review of International Political Economy 1(1): 53-80.(2) Allouche, K. D. (2005). Water nationalism: An explanation of the past and present conflicts in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent? PhD thesis. Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, Geneva, Switzerland.(3) Menga, F. (2015). Domestic and International Dimensions of Transboundary Water Politics, Water Alternatives, 9(3): 704-723.
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