Fluid lives: subjectivities, gender and water in rural Bangladesh

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Abstract:

This article seeks to contribute to the emerging debates in gender-water and gender-nature literatures by looking at the ways that gendered subjectivities are simultaneously (re)produced by societal, spatial and natural/ecological factors, as well as materialities of the body and of heterogeneous waterscapes. Drawing from fieldwork conducted in Bangladesh on arsenic contamination of drinking water, the article looks at the ways that gender relations are influenced by not just direct resource use/control/access and the implications of different types of waters, but also by the ideological constructs of masculinity/femininity, which can work in iterative ways to influence how people relate to different kinds of water. Conflicts and struggles over water inflect gendered identities and sense of self, where both men and women participate in reproducing and challenging prevailing norms and practices. As a result, multiple social and ecological factors interact in complex and interlinked ways to complicate gender-water relations, whereby socio-spatial subjectivities are re/produced in water management and end up reinforcing existing inequities. The article demonstrates that gender-water relations are not just intersected by social axes, as generally argued by feminist scholars, but also by ecological change and spatial relations vis-a-vis water, where simultaneously socialized, ecologized, spatialized and embodied subjectivities are produced and negotiated in everyday practices.

Keywords: Bangladesh; arsenic; gender; subjectivity; water

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09663690903003942

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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