Flooding Water and Society

Alejandro Camargo, Luisa Cortesi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


As social scientists of water, we need to keep evaluating the analytical tools we use. Through the example of floods, we here develop a critique of one of those tools, the hydrosocial cycle framework, in order to expand our conceptualizations of water. The hydrosocial cycle is a re-elaboration of the classical hydrological cycle which explicitly politicizes and denaturalizes the study of hydrological systems. In political ecology, such a conceptual framework has been pivotal to the understanding of how water circulates in society through a complex web of power relations, economic structures, and processes that are at the same time spatial and historical. But when we deploy this concept to examine floods, a number of limitations emerge. In this article, we formulate three specific theses which focus on those limitations: (a) an overemphasis on society, (b) a lack of attention to ecology and, more generally the relationships between water and other nonhuman elements and processes, and (c) a heuristic overreliance on the metaphors of flow and cycle. In developing these three theses, we discern alternative paths of analysis to conceptualize floodwaters at a time when these events increasingly constitute a significant threat to humans and nonhumans alike. Our hope is that this critique will also contribute to broader interdisciplinary debates about water and society. This article is categorized under: Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Human Water > Water Governance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1374
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number5
Early online date7 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding information
Université de Montréal; Cornell University;
Yale University

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Research programs

  • ISS-PE


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