This month the ANU African Studies Reading Group focuses on water access and agency in West Africa, featuring two presentations from ANU PhD candidates. All students and staff are welcome; refreshments are provided.
As the African continent, and the world, becomes more globally interconnected, scholars and politicians alike have come to speak in terms of “flows” of people, things, technologies, and ideas. One particularly productive material to think through such flows is water. “Water is life,” and as an essential and intrinsically social resource, its containment can both reflect and produce politics of inclusion and exclusion. Although seeping across national borders and easy to scale-up, this presentation instead returns to the politics of the everyday and experiences of local communities. Looking at two very different case studies – standpipes (potable water) in Nigeria and traditional shrines (housing sacred water) in Ghana – the presenters explore links between water access, authority and ethics. By thinking through the threshold of taps and traditional shrines, we ask who wields the power of water, and for what profit? The presenters encourage comparison and conversation about how points of water access elicit power in cases across Africa.