Video abstract — “Waves, Floods, Currents: The Politics and Poetics of Water in Social Movement Analysis”

Available now as an open access download, and forthcoming in Antipode 55(6) in November 2023, Jamie Matthews’ article “Waves, Floods, Currents: The Politics and Poetics of Water in Social Movement Analysis” opens with an intriguing observation…

The task of conceptualising social movements draws on a wealth of watery images, from protest waves and political currents, to imagining mobilisations as tides, ripples, cascades or high-pressure hydraulics. Called upon to analyse complex processes, these waters have a life of their own, carrying analytical implications while extending a relationship to water that is never only symbolic and is material, embodied and historical. This article explores the ways water is “enrolled” to understand movements, to advance three arguments: first, these use familiar water morphologies to naturalise particular, located understandings of political change and social form; second, they imply normative claims and ideological affinities regarding political struggle; third, this has implications for our relationship to water, echoing the abstract and alienating “modern water” of capitalist world-ecology. The article considers how critical water knowledges and subjectivities, often sustained by social movement spaces, indicate possibilities of a being-otherwise with water and its meanings.*

Jamie Matthews is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. As well as Antipode, his work on contemporary social movements, popular protest, and cultures of resistance (including anti-austerity movements in the UK, the global Occupy movement, and ecological struggles across Latin America) has been published in The Sociological Review and Social Movement Studies. @JamieXMatthews

*La tarea de conceptualizar los movimientos sociales se basa en una gran cantidad de imágenes acuosas, desde ≪oleadas de protestas≫ y ≪corrientes políticas≫ hasta imaginar movilizaciones como mareas, ondas, cascadas o hidráulicas de alta presión. Llamadas a analizar procesos complexos, estas aguas tienen vida propia, y conllevan implicaciones analíticas al tiempo que extienden una relación con el agua que es material, encarnada e histórica, y no simplemente simbolica. Este artículo explora las formas en que el agua se inscribe para comprender los movimientos, para presentar tres argumentos: primero, utilizan morfologías familiares del agua para naturalizar comprensiones particulares y localizadas del cambio político y la forma social; segundo, implican reclamos normativos y afinidades ideológicas en torno a la lucha política; tercero, esto tiene implicaciones para nuestra relación con el agua, haciéndose eco de la abstracta y alienante “agua moderna” de la ecología-mundo capitalista. El artículo considera cómo los saberes y subjetividades críticos del agua, muchas veces sostenidos por espacios de movimientos sociales, indican posibilidades de un ser-otro con el agua y sus significados.