1.2.4. A wider perspective on culture

Course subject(s) 1. Dip your toes in the water: What are the spatial, social and cultural dimensions of water systems?

When we talk about ‘culture’, we do not just mean the arts and folklore that probably came up in the examples you shared. In this section we will discuss how all thinking about water is culturally informed. This can take the form of assumptions which underpin practices of commodifying water for market transactions and of assumptions stipulating that water should be venerated as a sacred entity in water festivals. Water values can be detected both in economic and religious practices. Such diverse cultural perspectives on what water is – can it be quantified in a price or do its qualities go beyond monetary values? – can play a prominent role in conflicts over water.

Let’s analyze the values attributed to water and how diversities play out in conflicts around a mining project in Peru. Mining companies prefer to compensate local communities with money for loss of access to water, but what if local communities do not ‘buy that’ because water and waterscapes embody sacred values? What if the values local communities attribute to water cannot be equated to a price? Watch Sabine Luning discussing the difficulties associated with attributing a monetary value to water in a place where water landscapes hold sacred and ancestral values for local communities.

The fish don't talk about the water

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Water Works: Activating Heritage for Sustainable Development by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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