Worlding Water Supply: Thinking Beyond the Network in Jakarta


This article draws on scholarship in Southern theory to ‘world’ the study of water’s urbanization. This means complicating scholarship by widening the focus beyond the application of Northern norms to engage with complex and diverse practices in Southern cities. For water’s urbanization, this means focusing on what water supply is for the majority: neither the centralized piped-water network nor its absence, but the range of practices and technologies that unite people, nature and artefacts in a complex socio-ecological politics of water. Drawing on scholarship from Southern urbanisms, urban political ecology, and science and technology studies, we illustrate how expanding water’s urbanization to include more than networked infrastructure in Jakarta draws attention to the importance of ecological connections between piped water, groundwater, wastewater and floodwater. Thinking beyond the network requires deeper engagement with the ecological connections between the diverse flows of water in and around urban environments. These produce distinct forms of fragmentation that are missed when analysis is limited to piped-water supply. The emphasis on ecological connections between flows of water and power seeks to draw attention back to the importance of the uneven exposure to environmental hazards in cities in which neither water nor nature are wholly contained by infrastructure.