Gender Water Networks: Femininity and Masculinity in Water Politics in Bolivia

Abstract

This article explores how transnational networking around neoliberal water policies intersects with drives to mainstream gender. It examines how understandings of gender are constructed through water conflicts and demonstrates how complex contemporary gendered water experiences are reflected in a variety of networks operating at and across different scales. It challenges essentialist accounts of gender within policy debates, demonstrating how gendered subjectivities are produced, reproduced and disrupted through hybrid networks of struggle. It shows how these subjectivities enter the global arena through the anti‚Äźglobalization movement. The article suggests that some transnational water networks become hybrid spaces that draw in both those who support and contest neoliberal agendas and argues that contemporary analyses of water must be understood in this context of intersection. It draws on the example of Bolivian water politics to highlight how gender intersects with ethnicity, notions of appropriate femininity and constructions of heroic masculinities. It illustrates how women’s activities are circumscribed by understandings of the supermadre and explores how this femininity has become powerful in representational terms. Finally, the article examines the disciplining role of sexuality in producing femininities and understandings of heroic masculinity in national and transnational settings, including the water ministry and wider contemporary Bolivian politics.

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