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En(gender)ing the debate about water's management and care - views from the Antipodes


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Davidson, JL and Stratford, E ORCID: 0000-0001-6273-493X 2007 , 'En(gender)ing the debate about water's management and care - views from the Antipodes' , Geoforum, vol. 38, no. 5 , pp. 815-827 , doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2005.10.007.

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In this paper, we map the gendered contours of contemporary water management in order to demonstrate that regimes for individual ownership of water rights, markets, and the productive use of water simply reinscribe and simultaneously submerge in their apparent gender-neutrality a normative masculinity that underpins economic globalization and fortifies existing power relations. Not only do such arrangements disadvantage reproductive values and non-consumptive users; more generally, they also lack the capacity to ensure water’s sustainable development. Consequently, new management institutions for sustainability are demanded and, in making a case for equity-enhancing and adaptive institutions that better reflect water’s materiality, its multiple values and emerging water scarcity, we argue the need to invoke the conserving and ecologically protective feminine principle. To support our reasoning, we analyse water reform processes instituted in Australia and specifically by the State of Tasmania, referring to the latter jurisdiction to illustrate the gendered nature of resource management and to underscore tensions between economic globalization and sustainability, concluding that the tensions between the two agendas are probably irresolvable. We position our work in the borderlands among gender studies, feminist geography and philosophy, and political ecology, drawing together insights about the construction of resource management, the possibilities of the feminine care ethic, and ideas about the characteristics of institutional systems that could ensure equitable allocation and sustainable use of the planet’s resources.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Davidson, JL and Stratford, E
Keywords: Water management; Gender; Institutional change; Policy; Tasmania; Ethic of care
Journal or Publication Title: Geoforum
Publisher: United Kingdom
ISSN: 0016-7185
DOI / ID Number: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2005.10.007
Additional Information:

The definitive version is available at

This paper was first presented at the Fluid Bonds conference in Canberra, Australia, in 2003. A related work is: Davidson, J, STRATFORD, E, Economic Globalization, Sustainability, Gender and Water, Fluid Bonds: Views on Gender and Water, Stree, K Lahiri-Dutt (ed), Calcutta, 29-47 (2006)

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