The notion “riverhood” is a mid-19th century almost forgotten concept: “the state of being a river” (Oxford Dictionary). It expresses how different (formal and vernacular) cultures imagine, define, build and live with rivers as socionatural systems. Rivers as part of society, and vice versa. Rivers as an arena of (contested) co-production among humans and non-humans.
In the past decade, in the global South and North, a wide variety of new water justice movements (NWJM) have emerged. NWJMs are transdisciplinary, multi-actor and multi-scalar coalitions that challenge dominant river management approaches. They deploy a multitude of profoundly innovative strategies to restore or defend “living rivers”. A few examples are ecological flow clinics, the promotion of dam removals; federations designing new rules for shared catchment governance; citizens’ initiatives erecting river environmental health projects; and grassroots thinktanks. These NWJMs have the potential to revolutionize environmental debates, practices, laws and policies towards new, equitable and nature-rooted water governance. However, they are often excluded from policy and also academia has so far paid very little attention to them. Tools for understanding the emerging innovative river ontologies, normative frameworks, and commoning strategies are missing. Riverhood, thereto, aims to study, understand and support NWJMs, thereby contributing to more equitable, nature-entwined water governance.
Riverhood will entwine new conceptual debates as Rights of Nature with frameworks that have been recently developed (e.g., on water justice and hydrosocial territories) to elaborate on new ones. In particular, rivers will be theorized through four dimensions and the new cross-scientific field of “riverhood” will be developed.
The project’s central question is: How do the new water justice movements shape and dynamize riverhood enlivening strategies, institutions and practices, and how can they potentiate radically new scientific and policy approaches for sustainable and equitable water governance?
Build innovative transdisciplinary concepts and methodological tools that enable analyzing and supporting the new water justice movements’ inventive institutions, strategies and practices of dynamizing “riverhood”, to contribute to radically new, equitable, nature-society rooted water governance. The project has four research lines, in accordance with the overall framework as explained under Concepts.
In order to investigate the central question of the project and pursue its objectives, PhD researchers together with local stakeholders will work on eight cases studies in Europe (Netherlands and Spain) and Latin America (Ecuador and Colombia). You can find more information here.
In the course of the project, Environmental Justice Labs (EJLs) will be developed and employed. EJLs will bring together riverine communities, artists, researchers, activists, and policy-makers to co-investigate and co-produce concepts, strategies and cross-cultural knowledge that express innovative practices, scientific insights, and creative policy potentials.
Project duration: 01 July 2021 to 30 June 2026 (60 months)
Project funding: Riverhood project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 101002921).
The Riverhood project includes eight cases studies in Europe (Netherlands and Spain) and Latin America (Ecuador and Colombia). Both in The Netherlands and in Spain, mega-hydraulic development to control water and society at once, have a long tradition. Both countries have deeply influenced mechanistic water control paradigms and river basin transformations in Latin America up to these days. However, the pendulum may now swing back, with a different society-nature approach. Ecuador’s new Constitution has adopted “Rights of Nature” as claimed for by its citizens, and in Colombia rivers have become subjects, not objects, of law and societal platforms. European new water justice movements (NWJM) ask for mutual learning with their Latin American forerunner peers’ concepts and experiences. Both aim to creatively translate these notions in new hybrid riverhood approaches, considering contextual similarities, differences and opportunities.
Browse the research projects below:
The central activities of Riverhood include:
Find more information on PhD Projects.
Environmental Justice Labs
The aim of the Environmental Justice Labs (EJLs) is to exchange experiences, create new ideas and concepts, and develop action proposals and site-specific interventions through learning-based partnerships between river communities, artists, researchers, activists, and policy-makers. This will be done through on-the-ground activities, local, national and international meetings, as well as through virtual tools and an international interactive platform. Besides developing EJLs in each case study site, interaction among EJLs will be also facilitated to enable a continuous cross-case and multi-scale engagement and learning.
Integration and dissemination
Integration and comparison of insights from the different case studies, as well as dissemination of findings through scientific articles, movies, policy papers, this website and others, will be done by the project staff and postdoc researchers throughout the project. You can find all outputs under the tab publications.
Find here in the future multimedia from the Riverhood project.