Journal Article: Political ecologies of water in South Africa: A literature review, by Magalie Bourblanc

In WIREs Water, GovInn researcher Dr Magalie Bourblanc and David Blanchon have published an article titled “Political ecologies of water in South Africa: A literature review”.


Given the existence of a thriving epistemic community on water sciences, the high politicization of environmental issues in the country as well as the active mobilization of a grassroot movement inspired by environmental justice, South Africa appears to be an ideal case to study the development of a political ecology (PE) approach. Moreover, since the apartheid regime, water issues have long represented a marker of extreme inequality.This paper aims at drawing a panorama of the PE of water in South Africa, its main topics and approaches. In our definition, the PE of water is concerned with human–environment relations, with explicit considerations for power relations. In the first section, we identified texts that, according to this definition, constitute the core of the PE of water in South Africa, going beyond a mere “politics of water.” In the second section and in the discussion, we undertook an in-depth analysis of the main topics addressed by authors, such as environmental flows, “free basic water policy,” prepaid water meters. PE of water is strongly connected to international debates about the link between water and power, but also capable of addressing in a critical way the specificities of the South African waterscape. It stems from this review that critical PE in urban settings in particular dominates the discipline. We could also note that the PE of water in rural areas tends to put a bigger emphasis on the “politics of ecology” whereas urban PE tends to focus more on the “ecology in politics,” although both thrive to examine the human–environment relations in an integrated manner.


You can read the full article here, or through the DOI:

“Creating knowledge democracy in South Africa: The role of communities of practice”, Camilla Adelle

GovInn research fellow, Dr Camilla Adelle, has published a commentary in the South African Journal of Science on “Creating knowledge democracy in South Africa: The role of communities of practice”.


In our pursuit of a more equitable, just and sustainable society, we must examine not only who makes decisions, but also on whose evidence these decisions are made. The question of whose knowledge is to be recognised, translated and incorporated into action is especially important in South Africa as universities attempt to respond to calls to decolonise the curricula. In this Commentary, I argue that widening the scope of knowledge production is an essential role that universities can play in creating knowledge democracy. Communities of practice are presented as a way in which scientists can cultivate research partnerships with stakeholders outside of science to co-produce knowledge needed to solve society’s current complex challenges.


The full commentary is available here.