Public online guest lecture with Rutgerd Boelens

"Rivers, Territories and Power. Water Justice Movements and Counter-mapping to Bridge River Struggles"

Tuesday, May 14, 12:15 - 1:45 pm CEST

Online lecture: please register in advance here: meeting registration


Mega-damming, pollution and depletion endanger rivers worldwide. Modernist imaginaries of ordering ‘unruly waters and humans’ have become cornerstones of hydraulic-bureaucratic and capitalist development. They separate hydro/social worlds, sideline river-commons cultures, and deepen socio-environmental injustices. However, myriad new water justice movements (NWJMs) proliferate: rooted, disruptive, transdisciplinary, multi-scalar coalitions that deploy alternative river–society ontologies, bridge South–North divides, and translate river-enlivening practices from local to global and vice-versa. In this guest lecture, Rutgerd Boelens presents a collective framework that conceptualizes ‘riverhood’ to engage with NWJMs and river commoning initiatives. It suggests four interrelated ontologies, situating river socionatures as arenas of material, social and symbolic co-production: ‘river-as-ecosociety’, ‘river-as-territory’, ‘river-as-subject’, and ‘river-as-movement’. Boelens further examines the Traveling Rivers initiative, linking grassroots activists, engaged academia and river commoning struggles through counter-mapping. Making rivers actively travel among six river conflict arenas in Colombia and Ecuador, the initiative seeks new grass-rooted understandings capable of strengthening ‘rivers of resistance’ that break away from river grabbing and imposed status quo river governance.


Rutgerd Boelens is Professor ‘Water Governance and Social Justice’ at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and Professor ‘Political Ecology of Water’ with CEDLA, University of Amsterdam. He is also a Visiting Professor at the Catholic University of Peru and the Central University of Ecuador. He coordinates the Justicia Hídrica/Water Justice alliance and the international research and action programs “Riverhood” and “River Commons” ( Boelens research focuses on political ecology, water rights, legal pluralism, water cultures and cultural politics, governmentality, hydrosocial territories, river politics, environmental justice and social mobilization, mainly in Latin America and Europe. Recent books: “Water, Power and Identity. The Cultural Politics of Water in the Andes”, “Water Justice”, Cambridge University Press (with T. Perreault & J. Vos), Publications, see: and and


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