Water, Women and Rights: Rural Water Supplies, Drip Irrigation, and the (re)Feminization of agrarian labor in India

Social Justice @ UBC Noted Scholars Lecture Series
The Intimate Public Sphere: Thinking Through the Skin


Dr. Trevor Birkenholtz

Associate Professor
Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Editor, Environment and Society Section, Geography Compass

Dr. Trevor Birkenholtz‘s presentation argues that there is a (re)feminization of domestic and agrarian labor in the rural Global South as a result of inconsistent water development programs. Drawing on a case from northwestern India, the talk discusses two processes exacerbating agrarian gendered labor burdens. First, development programs aim to enhance water use efficiency in irrigation through new drip irrigation technologies. Yet these have high maintenance requirements, which are seen locally disproportionately as ‘work for women’. Simultaneously, rural water-supply development schemes aim to enhance access to water, in part, by reducing the amount of time women spend collecting water. Yet in doing so, these schemes reinscribe women as responsible for domestic water collection. Through what lens does Development envision the agrarian hydraulic landscape? How does this affect gendered work opportunities and ecological change? In this talk, Dr. Birkenholtz explores these tensions, discuss their outcomes and conclude with some possible ways forward from this imbroglio.


Dr. Trevor Birkenholtz is a cultural and political ecologist, and development geographer. His work attempts to link the political economy of access to and control over environmental resources, and ecological change (political ecology), to issues of technology, knowledge, and social power, more typical of research in science and technology studies (STS). To date, he has advanced these concerns by investigating the transformation of groundwater-based irrigation, and urban and rural water supplies in South Asia. He also serves as Environment and Society Section Editor for the journal Geography Compass.


Date:               Wednesday March 11, 12pm*

Location:       2080 West Mall, Jack Bell Bldg. Room 028
                          University of British Columbia

Directions to GRSJ on UBC Campus: http://bit.ly/R5WyjE


*Lunch provided with RSVP

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Co-sponsored by the Ecologies of Social Difference Social Justice @ UBC Thematic Research Network