Beyond the pail : accounts of life with(in) water

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16331
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201773669
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • In this thesis I enact an interdisciplinary investigation into water’s multiplicity of social-ecological values. I seek to open-up, and represent, different intrinsic, symbolic, and place-based values embedded in water; values that are in addition to the material characteristics of the substance that are often limited to quantified, and often economic, expressions. I do this in the context of the research’s empirical site, the southern African nation of Malawi. Herein my central research question is: ‘What are different values of water in Malawi, and how can they be represented?’. I draw on, and develop, the concept of dialogics from its application in social and environmental accounting to consider water in broad social-ecological terms. I furthermore apply theoretical insights of assemblage, drawing on interdisciplinary influences including cultural and ecological anthropology, political ecology, and the arts to conceptualise and represent my evidence. I employ autoethnographic methodology and methods to elucidate my encounters with water, centred around the performative practice of water walks undertaken in Malawi. My methodological orientation and practices illustrate that water has a multiplicity of social, cultural, political, cosmological, and symbolic values in addition to its material uses that are conventionally represented in quantified and economic terms. These values are locally embedded in place, emerge from historical and spatial influences, and are iteratively linked to regional and global social systems (such as land use and climate). These entanglements collectively shape and determine ways people relate to, and are affected by, water. My research contributes to social and environmental accounting and interdisciplinary water studies literature through the exploration of its methodological orientation, and subsequent application of theoretical insights, to frame and represent evidence of water relations in social-ecological assemblages. It has a social/practical contribution by providing empirical insights of water relations in Malawi, developed through its holistic social-ecological and place-based research approach.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Kalin, Robert
  • Coulson, Andrea
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2021