The Moving Rivers Webinar Series aims at creating a space for inter(trans) disciplinary dialogue between PhD researchers and project partners: International/national NGOs, water policy and advocacy institutes, government water management institutions, and civil society water platforms. These webinar series take place every two months and seek to actively promote exchanges between theory and practice on river regeneration, social-ecological justice, and the formulation of more equitable water policies.
The session on the 16th of June addressed the topic: Rivers as Spaces of Contestations: Citizen Science and Activist Research Approaches
People’s science, citizen science, activist research and science-policy-stakeholder interaction (SPSI) are all different forms of co-production of knowledge. They are gaining increased attention in water management and riverine contestations and conflicts, because of their potential to bring together the lived experiences, knowledges, interests, and values of different stakeholders and produce more syncretic knowledge. This could help in participatory water management, and even be the first step towards conflict transformation. This Moving Rivers webinar session engaged with some of the actual experiences of participatory and activist research in India in the context of groundwater management and riverine conflicts. The session problematized these experiences, especially their participatory and/or co-production character, and explored ways to make them more participatory and transformative.
Indeed, one of the challenges associated with knowledge co-production is that it is always intrinsically a political process of inclusion and exclusion. As such, fundamental questions to raise when addressing different ways of co-producing knowledge include “who is being listened to (or not)?” or “who is considered a (legitimate) knowledge producer, and who isn’t?”. These processes cross the lines of class, gender, ethnicity, species, and others; and they also intersect researchers and research subjects across these dimensions and relations of power. Some of these aspects, particularly in regard to gender and class/caste, were addressed during the webinar, for example in regard to different perspectives, experience or knowledge on groundwater by different actor groups such as engineers and farmers. The epistemic question – namely, what constitutes knowledge – is also central. Ultimately, knowledge is always situated and relational, rendering it crucial to understand the identities and subjectivities of those who are producing it and those who are being produced by it.
Download K. J. Joy’s presentation here.