Hydraulic infrastructure and territorial transformations

This research analyses different processes surrounding hydraulic infrastructure and territorial transformations in Turkey, Peru and Spain.

Continous territorial transformations through hydraulic infrastructure

The ‘lifespan’ of hydraulic infrastructure and associated transformations start with the envisioning of particular desirable hydrosocial futures, followed in many cases by the design and implementation of infrastructure as means to realize visions and imaginaries. From the beginning on, the reactions of those that may be beneficially or adversely affected by hydraulic infrastructure are central. They can range from active promotion, acceptance or adoption to contestations. Also, eventually each hydraulic infrastructure may be affected by aging, changing roles and functions, and/or removal. All these different processes are not a coherent and uniform sequence that is equally relevant for every hydraulic infrastructure. Rather, they vary across places and time, being strongly influenced by the socio-political as well as natural-material context of each infrastructure. This is what makes hydraulic infrastructure and the continuous reconstitution of hydrosocial territories a highly interesting yet complex area of study.

Research aim and questions

The aim of this research is to better understand different processes surrounding hydraulic infrastructure and connected territorial reconfigurations at different historical moments and in different places. It analyses the envisioning, constitution and contestation of hydraulic infrastructure and connected territorial reconfigurations in Turkey, Peru and Spain. On the one hand, the aim is to contribute empirically. On the other hand, this research aims to contribute conceptually by elaborating a framework that helps to better understand the processes surrounding different types of hydraulic infrastructure at different moments in time.

The central research question is: How are diverging visions and imaginaries about the shaping of hydrosocial territories through large-scale hydraulic infrastructure (dams, water transfers and hydropower plants) in Turkey, Peru and Spain promoted, realized and contested or accepted; and with what effects for the reconfiguration of hydrosocial territories?


The research looks at three case studies:

  • Ilisu Dam in Southeastern Turkey: focusing on the pre-construction controversies and contested imaginaries
  • Rural-urban water transfers and hydropower plants in Lima, Peru: focusing on how imaginaries become consolidated and materialized in hydraulic infrastructure complexes, producing differentiated effects in terms of water access, control and subjectivities
  • Dam removal in Spain: focusing on the discussions triggered by infrastructure’s aging and upcoming alternative imaginaries that call for freeing up rivers from barriers.

Methods include literature review, interviews and ethnographic field research, amongst others.