Life with breaking water supply – boreholes and the governance of water in northern Uganda

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201802051204
Julkaisun nimi: Life with breaking water supply – boreholes and the governance of water in northern Uganda
Tekijä: Sivander, Linda
Muu tekijä: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiaalitieteiden laitos
Opinnäytteen taso: pro gradu -tutkielmat
Tiivistelmä: This thesis discusses what it means to live with breaking water supply in rural northern Uganda, focusing on boreholes and their governance. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork consisting of participant observation and interviews conducted mostly in the centre of a rural sub-county in central Acholiland, Uganda, in spring 2015. In development discourse, boreholes are perceived as a viable technology to increase access to safe water in the Global South. However, they are known to have high rates of failure, often seen to lead to their abandonment by the communities who manage them. The thesis argues that this perception has a limited view of borehole failure and uses overtly passive terms to describe the communities. Instead, the study intends to expand the understanding of the ways in which boreholes can fail, and show how borehole users try to cope with and overcome breakage. The main research questions revolve around infrastructural failure and its management: What does it mean when infrastructures break down? How is this breakage experienced, managed and lived? In the 2000s, in anthropology and other disciplines, (non-human) materiality has resurfaced as a significant focus of study. In many of such approaches, assemblage theory has garnered increasing popularity. Assemblage brings together heterogeneous elements, such as people, objects, discourses and events, and includes an understanding of the unexpected elements remaining in the peripheries of networks. Utilizing this framework, the thesis aims to broaden the view of infrastructural breakage, often predominated by a notion of failure as a particular moment, where the infrastructure moves between two categories of functionality. The thesis argues that the breakdown of boreholes is processual, anticipated, and embodied, and a consequence of multiple nonhuman and human factors. This thesis participates in another growing anthropological discussion; vulnerability and its management, often accomplished by seeking relations with others. The thesis shows that the research participants’ lives were penetrated by material and financial precariousness, which is why they hoped for support in borehole maintenance from those more powerful. This has been seen as evidence of their passivity and dependency, which are seen as hindering lasting change in the sustainable development discourse. The study illustrates why hoping for support made sense for the research participants by recounting the socio-historical developments impacting northern Uganda and water governance. It is suggested that instead of perceiving such hopes as passive neglect of responsibility, they can be better understood as active coping strategies, often relating to past NGO projects’ material sustainability. Besides asking for support, the communities and borehole mechanics were embarking upon various other means of navigating borehole failure and sustaining their water points in order to stabilize the assemblage. It is argued that these mechanisms were utilized due to the motivation that “water is life”, which is seen in the thesis alike to desire or wish, the human force capable of bringing relations in assemblages into existence. The thesis shows that the communities’ understanding of water as life as well as their strategies of coping, however, tend to be obscured in many of the descriptions of borehole breakage, which perceive the low sustainability of boreholes to be largely related to social factors. The study illustrates that a focus on the lived reality of breaking water supply reveals the politics surrounding predominant ideas of infrastructural failure; when the processual and cyclical nature of borehole breakage is neglected, the social factors become perceived as the main issues worth tackling to improve sustainability. Yet, for the water users, the boreholes held immense value as the suppliers of vital water, which is why it was crucial to try to maintain them. The thesis thus demonstrates how a more comprehensive focus on breakage and its management can help us to readjust the ways in which we perceive failures, as well as shed light on the politics in their discursive utilizations.
URI: URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201802051204
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/232050
Päiväys: 2018
Avainsanat: boreholes
infrastructure
water
breakdown
governance
Uganda
Oppiaine: Sosiaali- ja kulttuuriantropologia
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Social- och kulturantropologi


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