(Re)making hydrosocial territories: Materializing and contesting imaginaries and subjectivities through hydraulic infrastructure

Lena Hommes*, Jaime Hoogesteger, Rutgerd Boelens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Infrastructures and their roles and connections to and in territories and territorialization processes have increasingly become objects of study in political geography scholarship. In this contribution, we build on these emerging insights and advance them by further conceptually disentangling the agential role of infrastructure. We bring together the notions of territory, governmentality, imaginaries and subjectivities, to clarify how exactly hydraulic infrastructure acts to transform relations between space, people and materiality. We start by introducing territorialization as a process of ‘ordering things’ in a certain space and time through different techniques of government. When then show how, at the base of such territorialization processes, are imaginaries that contain normative ideas about how space and socio-territorial relations should be ordered. Imaginaries are consequently materialized through hydraulic infrastructure through the inscription of morals, values and norms in infrastructure design, construction and operation. This set of materialities and relations embedded in infrastructure brings changes to the existing relations between space, water and people. In particular, we highlight the repercussions of infrastructure for how people understand and relate to each other, the environment, water, technology and space: in other words, how subjectivities change as an effect of hydraulic infrastructure constitution. Last, we show how infrastructure and the related hydrosocial territories that develop around it are a dynamic arena of contestation and transformation. We argue that socio-material fractures, emerging counter-imaginaries and the disruptive capacities of subjectivities constantly challenge the ‘fixes’ that infrastructures aim to inscribe in hydrosocial territories. Throughout the paper, we use empirical examples from recent research on hydraulic infrastructure and territorial transformations to ground the conceptual ideas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102698
JournalPolitical Geography
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Governmentality
  • Hydrosocial territories
  • Imaginaries
  • Subjectivities
  • Water infrastructure


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